“The Newlywed Game” is on the television. Julia Rhoden, 53, is sitting on her bed, exhausted from another long day at the health care center where she works as a nurse’s aide. There is a loud boom and then another and another. She feels a sting as a bullet enters her back. “I been shot! I been shot!” she cries out to her children in the next room, as blood soaks through the summer dress she wears as a nightgown.
That same night, 15-year-old Veronica Lopez is hit as she rides in a Jeep that is speeding along a waterfront drive. “Babe, they shot me in the stomach,” the girl tells a friend, who later says he covered her body with his own as the gunfire continued.
“Help, I’ve been shot!” another teenager screams as he limps down a darkened street, a bullet having torn through his leg.
It is Friday night in Chicago, and the Memorial Day weekend is just getting started. Police Department officials plan to deploy more than a thousand extra officers to deal with the violence they fear will intensify with the unofficial start of summer.
There is no stopping the gunfire, which comes in bursts and waves, interrupting holiday barbecues, igniting gang rivalries, engulfing neighborhoods, blocks, families.
From Friday evening to the end of Monday, 64 people will have been shot in this city of 2.7 million, six of them fatally. In a population made up of nearly equal numbers of whites, blacks and Hispanics, 52 of the shooting victims are black, 11 Hispanic and one white. Eight are women, the rest men. Some 12 people are shot in cars, 11 along city sidewalks, and at least four on home porches.
It is a level of violence that has become the terrifying norm, particularly in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. With far fewer residents, Chicago has more homicides than Los Angeles or New York.
In an effort to capture what is happening on Chicago’s streets, and why, The New York Times dispatched a team of reporters, photographers and videographers to virtually all of the shooting scenes across the city. Working around the clock through the three-day weekend, The Times interviewed relatives, witnesses, police officers and others, and captured how much violence has become a part of the city’s fabric. The Times intends to follow the cases throughout the year.
This weekend, among the six killed are a father, Garvin Whitmore, who loved to travel but was scared of riding on roller coasters, and Mark Lindsey, whose outsize personality brought him his nickname, Lavish. The oldest person struck by a bullet is 57. The youngest person to die is Ms. Lopez, a high school student and former cheerleader.
And so the logic of one Chicago mother, who watches another mother weep over her dead son in their South Side neighborhood, is this: She is glad her own son is in jail, because the alternative is unbearable.
“He was bound to be shot this summer,” she says.