Missed Direction: The other victims
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 4, 2013 1:46 PM
Leigh Monroe still gets emotional when she talks about the night Craig died -- how a single tear running down his face is the last image she has of the young man she describes as a "Mama's boy."
Cameron Doubt rides a swing at Herman Park. The little boy has no memories of his father, Craig, but has been told, by his mother and grandmother, that he was "killed by a bad man."
A little boy crawls into bed with his mother and wipes tears from her eyes.
It has been more than 20 years, but Leigh Monroe can still feel her 2-year-old son's fingers running through her hair.
"He would say, 'Don't cry, Mommy. Everything's going to be OK,'" Mrs. Monroe said. "He was a little angel."
But as he grew older, Craig began to reveal another side of himself.
He dropped out of school at 16.
He started associating with people his mother was wary of.
"He just took the wrong turn," Mrs. Monroe said. "He got connected with the wrong crowd."
A young man is unable to wipe away the single tear running down his cheek.
He is lying on a table inside Pitt Memorial Hospital -- surrounded by the blood a gunshot wound to the back of the head sent rushing out of his body.
Mrs. Monroe chokes up when she talks about Sept. 8, 2008.
"I won't ever forget seeing him laying on that table -- blood everywhere -- just laying there," she said. "And there was that one tear running out of his eye.
"When death came to my door, it was ... just really, really sad. You're not supposed to bury your kids."
Mrs. Monroe closes her eyes -- pausing to collect herself.
"How are you gonna shoot somebody and kill somebody when they are running away?" she said. "They shot him in the back of the head."
A mother finds it hard to cope with the loss of the young man she will always remember as a "Mama's boy."
He might have acted tough when he was around his friends, but she swears she knows the "real" Craig.
She can still hear him crying after coming home bloody and bruised.
"When he came home, he would lay with me. There would be times where he'd cry," Mrs. Monroe said. "He'd say, 'Mama, I'm just so tired of this mess.'"
And she can see the look in his eyes when he found out he was going to become a father -- when he held his son, Cameron, in his arms for the first time.
"Craig, you know, he was a little rough around the edges, but when Cameron was born, he started to change his ways -- to rethink some stuff," Mrs. Monroe said. "He would say, 'I'm a dad now.'"
But she was still worried about what might happen to him -- a fear brought on by premonitions that kept her up on those nights Craig would stroll the neighborhood with his crew.
"Whenever I would hear a siren, I would just worry, worry, worry so much. I would say, 'Craig. I don't think you should go out tonight. I'm feeling something. I'm feeling something in my spirit.' It was exhausting," Mrs. Monroe said. "And I would have visions and dreams that something was gonna happen to him, so I would always pray, 'God. Please just let my baby make it to his 18th birthday.' And when he did make it to his 18th birthday and then got killed, I was like, 'I prayed the wrong prayer.'"
A woman watches her grandson sleep.
He favors his father, she said -- in his face and in his mannerisms.
"Craig used to sleep on his back with his hands behind his head," Mrs. Monroe said. "Cameron, he'll be asleep like that sometimes and I'm like, 'Oh my God.'"
And as much as she loves the little boy Craig left behind, he serves as a constant reminder of all she lost to the violence that seems, to her, to have reached a fever pitch in Goldsboro.
"It's bittersweet. I mean, my baby's gone. It's still an everyday struggle," Mrs. Monroe said. "So I see him in Cameron every day, but it's not the same. It will never be the same. It's like a gnawing -- like something eating at me every single day."
Cameron's mother, Jah'lisa, knows how she feels.
She remembers holding her son soon after his father's death -- how, as he slept, he looked so much like Craig that it scared her.
"He was just laying there so peaceful -- just like the last time I saw Craig in that casket," she said. "It scared me so much that I woke Cam up. I couldn't take it."
But what hurts the most is having to explain to her son why he will never be able to make memories with his father -- how, in an instant, he was gone.
"It's sad for Cam," she said. "The only daddy he has is what he hears and what he sees in pictures."
A little boy makes his way through a jungle gym before rushing to his grandmother's side.
He clings to her as if he senses the pain she feels when she tells his father's story -- just like Craig did on those nights when he would climb into her bed and wipe tears from her eyes.
"If something's wrong with you, he understands that hurt," Jah'lisa says. "He tries to comfort you."
But both his mother and grandmother know that soon, he will be the one who needs a shoulder to cry on -- that one day he will understand exactly what "your daddy was killed by a bad man" means; that he might, in the future, cross paths with the person who robbed him of a father.
So they do their best to ensure he is sheltered from the violence unfolding in the city he is being raised in.
They won't even let him own a water gun.
"One day he said, 'It's just a water gun. It's not the same gun that killed my daddy,'" Mrs. Monroe said. "That was hard."
And they vow to help steer him away from the lifestyle they say is creating more victims like Craig every day.
"When we were about to bury him I would pray out loud. I'd say, 'Why'd you have to leave me, baby? Why'd you have to leave?'" Mrs. Monroe said. "I could hear him as plain as day. He said, 'At least I left you a grandbaby. I left you Cameron.' So he is what I live for now. Him and my husband. And for Craig. Because even though it's hard just to speak his name sometimes, I want to reach a point where I can do more for him."