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Hard to explain

Lester Holt writes: I've always hated the term "senseless violence," because rarely have I covered a story in which violence made any sense to me. As I interviewed some of those who have lost children in Chicago's raging epidemic of gang-related killings for my upcoming Dateline hour, I found myself in that familiar place of struggling to offer them the appropriate words of comfort. There is just no making sense of an innocent child not making it home from school alive simply because another youth decides to try and shoot a rival that afternoon and misses his target. Or, as in the case of Derrion Albert, a group of classmates decide they need someone to take their rage out on.

It was video of Derrion being pummeled to death near his school last year that made the country stand up and pay attention to what has been happening in this country's third largest city. Last year, Chicago lost 63 school age kids to violence, with scores more wounded. That's a third more than were murdered in New York, a city three times larger. This year at least 218 young people have been shot.

I lived in Chicago for 14 years, and raised my children there through middle school. Though I was born and mostly raised in California, I have long considered Chicago my "adopted" hometown, and proudly tell people it's the most livable big city in America. Yet in certain parts of the city, gangs have robbed too many good people of the freedoms to enjoy all Chicago has to offer, and they are literally killing its children.

This was not an easy Dateline project. The personal accounts of families and victims who have suffered loss are painful to hear. At the root of the violence are guns and gangs, but we found disagreement and even controversy over other factors that may be contributing to it. We also found hope, however, in the character of those standing up against the violence. And in that hope perhaps lie the appropriate words of comfort. That these deaths which defy sensible explanation have forced people to take notice and dedicate themselves to saving other children.

I hope you can watch this special Dateline broadcast, America Now: Faces Against Violence.

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