This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.
The courtyard at the Roosevelt Homes public housing complex on North 44th Street is filled with the sounds of children playing, the thump of a basketball on the court, neighbors laughing and talking.
Sometimes those everyday sounds are overtaken by the sounds that come at night: a pounding at the door. Gunshots. Screams. A child’s whispered prayer asking for it all to stop.
“I would ask for God to stop the shooting,” one little girl wrote in a children’s newsletter for an after-school program in the city.
This is part of living in the most dangerous areas of East St. Louis, which statistically has the highest murder rate in the country.