Death of a childhood on a New York Zebra crossing.

They hold hands as they approach the Zebra crossing. There is an ease and familiarity to the hand holding. A reassurance even. Ahead, the black and white road markings signal a cautionary tale. Proceed with care.

A Dad with a bag slung across his shoulders and a little girl with a small purse that swings gently in her free right hand.

They slow and Dad glances to his left to check for traffic that might swerve across their path, and up onto the one-way street they are crossing. As he looks away a car slows menacingly into sight not 10 feet away. A split second later and perhaps Dad spots the danger. Might feel it even. But no.

They stroll across the Zebra markings relaxed and in no particular rush. A Sunday evening pace – perhaps enjoying the summer evening’s sunlight. Unaware of the imminent threat.

Two or three feet from the pavement the pair stop. You observe this innocent pause with an urge to scream at them to run. To get out of harms way. A man on a bicycle appears and turns the corner on the pavement ahead. He too seems blissfully unaware.

The car slows to a halt as Dad and his daughter stop on the second to last stripe of the Zebra. A long arm emerges from the car and at the end of it is a gun. Dad and girl are casually talking about something. Maybe an ice cream.

They see neither arm nor gun though both are pointed at them. It is the last second now. No time for goodbye. The shot rings and Dad falls. His 6 year old daughter’s first instinct is exceptional. She runs to the safety of the pavement.

She doesn’t freeze. She doesn’t look to find the shooter. Two actions that may endanger her life further. No, she understands enough to know that she can’t save her Dad. Thank God for that.

The car quickly turns and pulls away. A little girl learns she must find her own way home.

With one less person in the world to hold her hand.

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