Sandra Parks was 11 when she wrote an award-winning essay about the plague of gun violence in her hometown of Milwaukee.
Two years later, Sandra was sitting in her room with her sister watching television when a shooting took place outside the family's home. A stray bullet entered Sandra's room and struck the eighth grader in the chest, killing her.
The New York Times reported on the tragic shooting, which has rocked a city where gun violence has become an all too common occurrence and where children are often victims. In the last two years, 12 children from Milwaukee public schools were victims of homicide. Sandra is the seventh student to die in 2018, the report added.
The report noted that Sandra had gained local acclaim for an essay in which she addressed the gun violence epidemic and described a world where "little children are victims of senseless gun violence."
"Sometimes, I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day," Sandra wrote. "When I do; I come to the same conclusion … we are in a state of chaos."
But in describing the bleak situation, Sandra also struck a hopeful tone in her essay and wrote about the importance of caring for one another and feeling empathy (the entire essay was republished by WDSU).
"The truth is faith and hope in what people can do, has been lost in the poor choices we make," she wrote. "We shall overcome has been lost in the lie of who we have become! So now, the real truth is, we need to rewrite our story so that faith and hope for a better tomorrow, is not only within us, but we believe it and we put it into actions."
Sandra was interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio after being awarded third place in the district-wide competition, saying that she was moved to write the essay after seeing the devastation that gun violence had on her community. She talked about how "all you hear about is somebody dying or somebody getting shot and people do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson who it was that was just killed."The Milwaukee District Attorney's office has charged two men with first-degree homicide for the shooting death of Sandra Parks. As the New York Times noted, both were also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. The motive in the shooting was not clear.