Surviving the bullets

The two small boys were simply waiting for daddy to get home from work when they were shot.

Every afternoon Edgar Escalera, 8, and his little brother Juan Jr., 5, would sit out on the front porch of their Chicago Lawn home with their mother Maria and watch for Juan Sr. to arrive. When they heard the first gunshot, Maria thought it was fireworks. When she heard the second, third and fourth, she rushed her boys inside.

“My mom said,‘Hurry up, go inside. They’re shooting,’" Edgar says.

As he headed into the house, Edgar noticed the bottom of his shorts were wet. He looked down and saw the blood."I’ve been shot,” he told Maria.

“Me too Mama, me too,” said Juan.

Caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting June 20, the boys were shot when a bullet tore through Edgar’s leg and then pierced Juan’s leg. Both boys survived with just one night in the hospital, but the wounds they suffered that day go much deeper.

“They don’t want to go outside,” their dad says."They don’t even want to go in the backyard.”

“It makes me scared,” Edgar says. Since that time, he and Juan have gone out to play just once in the front yard and once in the backyard.

Juan and Maria never thought twice about their kids playing outside."We didn’t worry about them. They were just waiting for dad to get back from work. They used to do that every day,” Juan Sr. says. Since they’ve been shot, Juan and Maria have tried to continue on with life as usual, but it hasn’t been easy.

“We’re not safe, but we’re not scared,” Juan Sr. says."This is a problem in Chicago. All the neighborhoods have this problem.”

When Juan thinks about what happened, he hopes something changes so that other families don’t have to go through the same trauma.

“They should give the parents a fine for their kids, parents should know what their kids are doing,” Juan says."If my kid isn’t home at 10 o’clock, what’s he doing? A lot of these parents don’t know what their kids are doing.”

In spite of what happened, Maria continues to walk the boys to school and the family tries to move forward, although the mere mention of the shooting reduces Maria to tears. She knows she needs to be strong for the boys, but when asked if she’s still scared, she can only reply through her tears,"Sí.”

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