I don't like surprises. Sudden noises — my dogs barking, a pan dropping — make me jump. I get angry a lot easier. I don't like large crowds where people drink because I know how it leads to conflict, even gunfire. I try to let off steam by running or lifting weights or jumping around to the point of exhaustion.

What I tell myself — at every scene — is that people live here. By choice or not, they make their homes here, so that's where we should be.

There are combatants among the onlookers. Some are resigned to the violence; some accept it if the alternative is cooperating with police.

But everywhere we go, we encounter families. They like their neighbors, they wish the schools were better, but they live in a community. People know each other.

We talked to a woman in Englewood who was trying to get her parents out of their home.

"They shoot out here every day," she explained. "They may not hit nobody, but they're shooting."

She wants her parents somewhere away from the city, but they don't want to go. Her father doesn't want to be run off by gangbangers.

After we heard the shooting in West Pullman, we left the neighborhood. We went to the next shooting in South Chicago. Then we went somewhere else. To the people we met, gun violence is not an abstraction they read about. It's what they live with.

That's why the job is important.

Peter Nickeas is a Tribune reporter.



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