McKenzie Elliott and Other Crossfire Children

McKenzie Elliott and Other Crossfire Children

Six months ago, three-year-old McKenzie Elliott was killed by a stray bullet while playing on her front porch.

The bullet wasn’t meant for McKenzie, of course. But that is small consolation to her family. Two men were also injured in the gun battle that erupted outside her home in Waverly, and police identified a “person of interest” in the case. Her murder remains unsolved.

I think of McKenzie from time to time. My granddaughter lives a block away, and will soon be old enough to play on her front porch (with a guardian or parent watching, as was the case for McKenzie).

This isn’t a plea for gun control or youth interventions—though I support those things. It’s just a simple expression of grief. Of remembrance.

My children were raised a few blocks from McKenzie’s house, and I wrote this poem after yet another late-night exchange of gunfire outside. How sad that such a poem is still true, and still needed.

Lest you be without hope, savor the last line. The God of Daniel in the lion’s den still rules our broken world. He is still sovereign, and he is still good.

Crossfire Children

“Our children are being damaged in ways we don’t even know about yet. In my own community, I see more helicopters flying around with searchlights than I ever saw in Vietnam. ”

George Buntin, Executive Director, Baltimore NAACP, 1993


I lie awake.


I hear loud voices,

gunshots, screams.

Men run through the alley, laughing.

Another pursues, cursing.


Fools, I fume.

They play, but

life is snatched away,

DNA returning to dust

with the hot boring of a bullet.


I circle through the bedrooms

touching each child


pulling flimsy covers

over fragile limbs


remembering the God of Daniel

in the lion’s den.


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