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I'm Raising My Kids in the Murder Capital of America

Photograph by Getty Images

I'm a proud resident of Chicago, the city of Ferris Bueller, two baseball teams and pizza that people make pilgrimages for. When family and friends come to town, we show off the Art Institute, the lake front path that hugs the shore of Lake Michigan and the greatest hot dogs in the free world. There is so much to love in my city.

But Chicago has a problem. As the New York Times so eloquently stated, it's actually a "murder" problem. And when you wake up to headlines like that, you have to start wondering why in the world you are raising a family in the middle of the murder capital of America.

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The news about Chicago's violence is so disheartening and terrifying that I've vowed to stop reading it. But I would have to crawl into the cave without a radio, social media or any other living souls if I truly want to screen myself from the reality of the problem. Because Chicago's murder rate is news. Big news.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, 69 people were shot in Chicago. That number is equal to all the students in my daughter's first grade class and my son's preschool class combined, with about 15 people left over. The number is staggering.

Am I like the person who lives on the seashore despite warnings that a hurricane is coming that might uproot my house and send it out to sea?

When it was time to settle down and have a family, my husband and I decided we weren't suburb people, so we planted our roots one mile from the center of downtown Chicago. Today, we are raising our two small children in the shadow of Soldier Field and the Shedd Aquarium. We wanted access to public transportation, non-chain restaurants, and the lake front. Like most city residents, we wanted the rich culture and teeming aliveness of the actual city limits. The thought of a multi-hour commute to work was unfathomable.

But this murder thing makes me rethink how important those restaurants are, especially since we never go out to eat because TWO SMALL KIDS. And we love the museums, but we only visit them a few times a year. I love the life and the diversity, but as the violence grows, I have to stop and ask myself the hard questions about our priorities, our safety and our obligations.

While the New York Times article points out that the violence is mostly confined to impoverished, segregated neighborhoods on the West and South sides, it's creeping closer to me and my family. Am I like the person who lives on the seashore despite warnings that a hurricane is coming that might uproot my house and send it out to sea?

Last week, a neighborhood bulletin went out reporting that someone fired 20 shots out into the street six blocks from my children's school. A friend who is an emergency room doctor recently treated a fatal gunshot wound in a young man who was shot right in front of my kids' school. It happened on Saturday around 4 p.m., and there were no children around, but still. Someone intent on putting a bullet through someone else's gray matter is not likely to obey a school schedule, right?

If someone really wants to shoot someone dead, at least in Chicago, it appears that they just do it.

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So what does that mean for me and my children? I consider it my job to keep my children safe, which is increasingly difficult everywhere in the world, but I have sobering, cold, hard facts about my own city. I send my children to a school on the south side of Chicago. Sure, it's a great school, but is it worth the risk that one day one of the dozens of bullets that fly through Chicago every day might reach them?

My friends in the suburbs think I'm insane for sticking with the city. My parents read the headlines from four states away, and wonder, out loud, if I've lost my mind. Honestly, I wonder the same thing too. I said I would never, ever move to the suburbs, but now I'm starting to wonder if it's time to rethink that vow.

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