CHICAGO -- Between World Series Games 4 and 5, twin brothers hung out on a popular corner in the Old Town neighborhood. Edwin and Edward Bryant liked sports, McDonalds and flirting with girls. They were 17 years old. They were hanging in a group of kids crowded around the brick wall of an apartment building, across Evergreen Street from a parking lot. It was around 3:15 in the morning.
A car drove west down Evergreen, at least one of the passengers holding a gun.
They shot Edward first, in the chest and head, and he fell right where he was shot, by the wrought iron fence, seriously wounded but alive. Edwin started running, taking a right on Hudson. The car followed him, shooting him maybe 20 or 30 steps later, in the chest and back. (Police don't yet have suspects or a motive.) The car sped away. The phone calls began. Michael Horton, one of the coaches for Edward's Chicago Demons basketball team, woke up around 4 a.m., and as he decided whether to go back to sleep or get up and start his day, he saw the light flashing on his silenced phone.
He rushed to the hospital.
Edwin was dead on arrival, but Edward -- known to his friends as Ed -- hung on, fighting. His father waited inside the hospital. His mother refused to go in, so she sat on the ground surrounded by family. She didn't speak to anyone, alone in her grief. She waited for someone to come out and tell her if she'd lost one son or two. Around 4:45 a.m., someone wheeled the boys' grandmother out of the hospital with the news. Coach Horton stood about 10 feet away and couldn't hear the words.
He didn't need to. He saw the twin's mother collapse.
SEVENTEEN PEOPLE DIED this weekend in Chicago while the Cubs hosted three World Series games. It was the city's deadliest weekend of the year. Hernando Caster was shot on West Huron Street during the sixth inning of Game 3. He died 16 minutes after the game ended. Tyrice Anderson was 30. Martell Turner, who died five minutes after Anderson, was 25. Luis Corona was 19. Walter McCurry was 36. A 31-year-old man died in Humboldt Park, shot in the face. Fifteen minutes later, a man was killed on the South Side, but police couldn't immediately identify him. Another unidentified man died on the kitchen floor of a second-floor apartment. The youngest victim was 14. He'd been planning on running for student council. He died after Game 3, around the time the Wrigleyville bars were closing. He was helping his father move. His family, like the Bryant twins', lived in Garfield Park. "It's almost everywhere around you," coach Horton says, sounding defeated and lost. "Then it hits you, then it's right back around you."
Seventeen shot dead, 42 more wounded. Over and over, people close to the shootings have wondered if the enormous police presence outside Wrigley Field took away resources from the rest of the city, combining with the unseasonably warm weather to create a fertile scenario for violence. In a news conference, police officials denied that claim, but these are facts: Around the stadium, neon-vested officers stood shoulder to shoulder, creating a human barricade; and most nights on the block where the Bryant brothers were shot, there is a parked squad car, officers monitoring the corner where neighborhood kids hang out.
The police car was not there Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
The only neighborhoods in Chicago without a shooting were the Northwest and the far North Side, between Wrigley Field and the expensive north suburbs. The juxtaposed headlines lead to a delicate conversation, one difficult to describe in a way that feels accurate to everyone in Chicago. Most of the 621 people murdered in Chicago this year are black. Most Cubs fans are white, and with World Series tickets going for thousands of dollars, and with cover charges for bars around the stadium hitting a hundred dollars a head, the madness in Wrigleyville is a celebration for the wealthy. The Cubs' fantasy bubble and the weekend's violence are happening in separate worlds, which rarely overlap. There is a disconnect.
Parts of the city suffered through the worst weekend of the year, while others celebrated the greatest weekend in a century.
BOTH OF THE Bryant brothers played sixth-grade basketball at a youth center a quarter mile from where they were shot. On Tuesday morning, the day of Game 6, that team's coach, a man named Vince Carter, drove toward the corner where the boys were murdered. He and his fellow coaches have been meeting with their players, telling them lies about how things will be better -- but unsure of what else to say.
Somewhere in between the grieving and counseling, Horton thought about the last time he'd seen Edward, the brother he knew best. They'd just returned from a tournament in Las Vegas, and a coach from North Dakota State called Horton, asking about the team's three big men. As they talked, Horton drove around the neighborhood and picked up Edward, so he could listen to the conversation on speakerphone. Horton could tell that Ed started to imagine a life beyond Chicago. "His world was about to change," Horton said. "He won't even get to live that out. That's my last memory of him. This kid, he won't get a chance. He won't even get a chance."
While Carter drove through the neighborhood on Tuesday, his phone rang. It was Shawn Harrington, who'd coached basketball before he was shot two years ago while driving his daughter to school, a case of mistaken identity. He played on the Marshall High team featured in the famous documentary Hoop Dreams, and now he's trying to walk again. He wanted to check in with Carter, who has had a rough few days.
"The elephant in the room is they were out at 3 in the morning," Carter says. "We need to stop finding ways to justify why people get shot."
He pointed at the fence, where three or so bunches of deflated balloons sagged toward the ground, and dozens of burned-out votive candles and an empty pint of Patron formed the sad remnants of last night's vigil. So many shootings, he said, leave everyone desensitized, almost needing to forget that those numbers in the paper -- 17 dead in a weekend, or seven dead in a single night -- are all attached to families, to bedrooms with posters on the wall and computers logged into social media accounts, all of that a widening hole, taking not just the lives of the dead but the spirit of the living, in neighborhood after neighborhood, month after month. Carter doesn't blame the police for having a huge presence at Wrigley or for not having a squad car in its usual place, just as he doesn't want people to blame the Bryant boys for being out at 3 in the morning, acting like normal teenagers. "It's still not their fault," Carter says, of both the cops and the victims. "We're so quick to affix blame."
Before returning to his youth center, Carter drove over to the other problem spot in the neighborhood, where the police also posts cars nightly. He turned down Cambridge Street, passing the row of houses on the right. Last night, a gunman shot down one of the side streets, accidentally hitting a little girl. Carter points at another child to his right, her mother calling after her, as if to say she could be next.
Police cruisers park nightly on either end of the street. But the neighborhood is changing, with construction crews in hard hats walking past the sidewalk where Edward Bryant fell. At the intersection of Cambridge and Chicago, where one of the cops sits watch, there is a Lamborghini dealership's repair shop. A green sports car is visible through an open garage door. Michael Jordan's son and ex-wife live a block or so away, Carter says. This is a gentrifying neighborhood, prime Cubs country. An exotic Italian car dealership a block or so from where an innocent child was caught in the crossfire. These worlds are both Chicago, next door and an unbridgeable ocean apart.
"Exactly," Carter says.
There was the World Series and a murder record on the same weekend. There is an Intelligentsia coffee shop less than a half mile from where Edwin and Edward Bryant were shot. There is a Chicago cheering for the Cubs tonight and another one burying its dead. There is a city struggling to reconcile those things.