262 people. 262 people were killed in my hometown last year. New record for us since 1970, but I’m not sure it’s one I want my city to have. Growing up in St. Louis Missouri, we are taught about the arch and the people that came from here. But I seem to notice that my city has a lot more than that. A lot more that no one notices. I’m happy I have the privilege, and yes it is a privilege, to live in one of the safer parts of St. Louis. I call it a privilege because it’s not something everyone gets. See people always bash on other people for what they do here. Whether it’s selling drugs, or getting involved with gangs. But they are just trying to do what the rest of us are trying to do, just in a different way. They’re trying to find a way out. I can’t blame them, I don’t think anyone can. I’m just a 14 year old kid, and I’ve seen things most people could go their whole lives without seeing. People bash on other people for what they do, but they don’t see what we see, I’ll listen to them after those people visit East Side, or North County, better yet Academy Park. Go downtown you’ll see bodies drop like flies, then you’ll be silent. You won’t blame them for wanting out, you won’t blame them for selling drugs, trying to rack up enough change to put food on the table. But the thing is, most people don’t get to cash their golden ticket out. In these places, you aren’t meant to see your 18th birthday, you aren’t meant to make it out, you aren’t meant to be safe. In other places you don’t have to worry about these. You don’t have to worry about people you know getting shot. You don’t have to worry about you getting shot. You don’t have to worry about comforting a mom at her 15 year old son’s funeral, when he should be the one outliving her. But I’m proud of myself, my friends, and my family. I swear to you no matter what I will put on for my city until the day I die. Because I know that when I grow up and make it out, which is exactly what I’m gonna do. Everyone who grew up here is going to be mentally tougher than everyone outside. Outside my window I see a place that will make me who I am in the future. Outside my window I see a bunch of kids like me who have no one and nothing to tell their story, so with this pen and paper, I’m telling their stories too.