07/09/08 — A teen's tragedy: Losing Derrick Barden should make us all pause

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A teen's tragedy: Losing Derrick Barden should make us all pause

Derrick Barden, 18, of Warsaw did not come from one of the ritziest areas of his community. He lived in an apartment complex with a family who struggled — just like so many do.

The difference between him and some of the teenagers he went to school with and lived around was that he was a 2007 standout football player at James Kenan High School in Duplin County.

He had a future — a chance to go on to college, to perhaps find a career he loved, a chance to build a family and a life of his own.

But all that ended last week when a group of teens playing with an AK-47 automatic weapon fired a shot that hit Derrick — randomly, cruelly.

And when the smoke had cleared, James Kenan had lost a star football player and a leader with a full life ahead of him and a family and a community had lost just a little hope that life really can turn around if you work hard and follow the rules.

It will be hard for many of them to go on, to understand why so random an act took such a promising and innocent life.

There are many questions that should accompany any discussion of Derrick Barden’s death.

One of the most pressing should be how three teenagers managed to get their hands on an automatic weapon in the first place. That one should end with a discussion with their parents as well as law enforcement. When the owner of the gun is found, he or she should have to answer for how it got into the hands of children — and ended up taking a life.

After that, the discussion should focus on those who remain behind — the Derrick Bardens who still have a chance to start a new life, to make a difference, to be stars on the athletic field and in the classroom.

Losing Derrick should not make anyone give up on the children who still need someone to fight for them.

There will be much talk in Wayne and Duplin counties over the next few weeks about education and buildings and programs to reach children and to show them a better way.

There is no more discussion that is more important — especially in light of how easily a young person can become lost in today’s world.

As they argue or negotiate, both counties should remember that the reason they are tasked with coming up with plans for schools and futures are children like Derrick — those who are looking for someone to help them become the kind of adults they have the potential to be.

And in the meantime, we should all offer a prayer or two for the family and friends Derrick left behind. There could not be a worse pain than losing someone so young so senselessly.

Even in his death, Derrick could have an impact on his school and his fellow classmates. His legacy could be his example as an athlete and as a young man.

It won’t bring him back, but it might save a life.

Published in Editorials on July 9, 2008 11:12 AM