A Story About a Familiar Stranger

I want to tell you a story about two strangers. One of these strangers wasn’t always one, but he is now.

My story starts here on an average foggy day, but the memory remains clear. Three missed calls from my best friend Indee, and two from my mom. Weird. Indee texts, and tells me to check the news. Quickly, I type on the keyboard with my slippery fingers, as my heart begins to feel heavier in my chest. Then instinctively, my foot starts tapping on the floor, and I start biting my nails as the page loads. There right in front of my face, as if he was looking right at me, was the mugshot of Quadir. I sit there in complete silence, an empty house, with Quadir across from me, while I hear the clock tick as if his time was slipping away, and the time that had been taken away from that innocent girl. It was mocking me.

Quadir Gibson, a “standout running back for the Crusaders”, a friend of mine, was being charged as an adult with murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy. He may not have pulled the trigger, but then the trigger would have never been pulled if it wasn’t for him. Towered over us all, known as the “troubled” kid in middle school. Walked in the halls as if no one was there with him. Cold front but a warm heart, I always liked to think. I had the pleasure to spend a lot of my time with Quadir. Often paired up for projects, or we sat together in class where my teacher thought I could be a good influence on him. At first I thought nothing of it, but after almost every class sitting together, and many major projects together over the year, it became clear to me: this kid needs a lot of help. Time and time again he would either come in with a smile on his face, or mid-class he would leave the seat next to me to walk out of the class and slam the door. Visits to the principal's office became less of a coincidence and more of a pattern. Teachers would often pull him aside and ask, “How are you doing? How are things at home?”, receiving the same answer almost every time, “Fine.” I remember the times in the play yard where he liked to play football, and soon yelling out of enthusiasm turned into fights with other classmates. He had matured so much faster than the rest of us, bragging about his girlfriend and how he was part of a dirt bike gang. He was a disturbed child, yet the days sitting next to each other remained no different. Small talk, but interesting conversation. Silent class periods turned into sporadic laughter and inside jokes to fist bumps in the hall. He’d call me “Ella Enchanted”, as if I was in my old little perfect world, and I got to welcome him into it.

Me amongst many didn’t expect this day would come, but weren’t surprised to say the least. It was like reality came knocking on my door, holding the mug shot of him. Adjusting was the hardest part, memories triggered by miniscule actions, images of Quadir sitting in a jail cell with men twice his age, or the family grieving over the life of their beautiful daughter that was now gone forever. It was hurt to believe it, but it was reality smacking right into me. One pull of trigger left a mark on many, and I still don’t even know if he cares. I alongside many others built a safe place for him, which he quickly decided to move out of. The countless second chances, extra help, endless amount of forgiveness didn’t seem to matter, and that hurt. It was like everything I knew about this boy was no longer true, where he became a stranger that none of us seem to know. Remembering times he would call stupid names, or push me against the lockers as a joke and how he could’ve easily hurt me, but I never saw him like that. All the days spent in the same classroom when he could’ve brought a gun, when I could’ve been that girl.

Not only did I question who Quadir was, but when that changed I had a hard time understanding who I was too. What kind of person was I if I was friends with a murderer? How do I feel bad for a friend of mine who did so wrong without disregarding the innocent life that was lost? Who am I to think someone who committed an unforgivable crime is a good person? To this day I still continue to wonder, and many of these questions continue to stay unanswered, but others became clearer to me.

After the horrific incident, I began to realize that I was no longer living in my perfect world Quadir insisted I was in. Quadir was only one of many who made the choices he made and I felt it was up to me to tell my story and to help people understand that a gun is not a toy, and a quality education is not something to be taken for granted. He shined a light on many aspects of my life that seemed foggy, and allowed me to make them seem clear. Gun control quickly became an interest of mine, where I subscribed to various newsletters, and followed the news to study how common these Quadir types of incidents were. School projects promptly became dedicated to this new passion , and in a way it felt like I was doing it for the girl, in honor of her. Then I discovered my love for education. Quadir had a crummy childhood, the particulars I don’t know about. His elementary and middle school gave him tremendous support thanks to caring, nurturing teachers and supportive classmates. He graduated and went on to a top-notch high school where he starred on the football team. So what happened? Why would he involve himself in something so awful after so many had tried to lead him toward a better path?  Without Quadir, I would have never been able to discover a new side of myself, and I would never be able to fight for a life that is now gone. Although I never knew this girl, the past few years I have felt so close to her and I wanted to do this for her.

Here I am now, about 3 years since Quadir, a friend of mine killed an innocent girl, where he now roams the streets of Philadelphia, in which he no longer is in jail. A huge part of my life became obvious, and I learned so much about myself and many of who I affiliated with, but I continue to live my life with the many unanswered questions. I like to think that Quadir feels remorseful and does realize his actions hurt many, but that part is still murky. When I think of Quadir, I no longer see him as a friend, but as a stranger who I thought I once knew, but no longer know. . Three years ago I wrote about this, only months since it had happened and I knew nothing of what was going to come next and still had no idea where things would move forward from it, but so much managed to change in the past few years and questions still continue to roam my head. Quadir Gibson is a stranger to me, yet the girl he murdered I couldn’t feel more connected to.  I leave you with not much, where my life is still quite conflicted, unable to conclude this story, because as of now, there is still no ending.

Comments (4)

Lotus Shareef-Trudeau (Student 2018)
Lotus Shareef-Trudeau

I learned about how much one's relationships to another person, even if it is not incredibly close, can impact you and how you can learn about yourself from other's actions, be that good or bad. I thought that this piece was really well written, it was very focused and on topic which made it easy to understand and follow along with.

Elani Gonzalez-Ortiz (Student 2018)
Elani Gonzalez-Ortiz
  1. I learned that this one person who you did not think could affect you in such a way did.
  2. I really enjoyed your essay it was written like a story which I enjoyed. You wrote about a really heavy topic and I think that you did a great job in doing that.