By Ryan Haggerty and Cynthia Dizikes
10:34 PM CST, February 24, 2012
Over the last three months, living in a chilly tent on the roof of a vacant South Side motel, there were several times when the Rev. Corey Brooks questioned whether his vigil against gun violence was worth it.
He was often jolted awake by gunshots. He missed his son's birthday and other family celebrations. He and his wife, who is afraid of heights, were limited to phone calls, Internet video chats, and a smile and a wave when she arrived at work at his church across the street.
But at about 6 p.m. Friday, Brooks waved triumphantly as he was lowered to the ground by a hydraulic lift. A large crowd cheered his touch down in a block-partylike atmosphere.
"We're here tonight because of young men who have lost their lives," Brooks told the crowd. "We're here tonight because on any given night on the South Side of Chicago or the West Side of Chicago some young black man could be killed and his life could be gone prematurely."
Earlier in the day, a pledge of $98,000 (later changed to $100,000) from movie mogul Tyler Perry provided the final push for reaching the pastor's goal of raising $450,000 to buy and demolish the decrepit motel, a haven for drugs and prostitution.
Brooks, 43, began his campaign in November, the day 17-year-old Carlton King Archer was buried after being killed days earlier in a gang-related shooting.
Archer's mother, Kimberly Hopkins, stood against Brooks' New Beginnings Church in the 6600 block of South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, across from the motel, on Friday.
"My son is gone," she said. "There is no closure for me, but there is some peace here, and it comes from all these people being here and the pastor's determination."
Perry's pledge put Brooks about $15,000 over his target. After the old motel is demolished, Brooks wants to build a community center on the property, a project he figures will cost $15 million.
"This is a victory," Brooks said earlier Friday. "But there's still some battles to be won."
Brooks' rooftop stand drew national attention and visits from politicians as well as dozens of Occupy Chicago protesters who came in December to show support.
When Brooks first moved into his tent, he said he hoped to raise the money in 21 days. But as the fundraising dragged on, Brooks dug in for an extended stay, huddling next to kerosene and electric heaters and using a portable toilet on the roof.
The father of four said he came down only for a doctor's appointment, to preside over two funerals for murder victims and to comfort the families of two other homicide victims.
Brooks' wife, Delilah, said she was glad to have him back on the ground.
"I've slept with the light on every night because for the last 17 1/2 years I've always had him by my side. So for him not to be there was a scary situation," she said. "So tonight I'll actually get to sleep with the lights off."
Brooks said he planned to shave, shower and get a haircut before going to see Tyler Perry's new movie.
"I'm going to celebrate this for the weekend," Brooks said. "And then on Monday, it's back to work."
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