Pubdate: Fri, 16 Oct 2009
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2009 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Azam Ahmed
Bookmark: (Youth)


Bruce McFall descended the stairs of his South Pullman home just
before sunrise. He stepped out into a slight drizzle and walked down
his quiet block to 123rd Street, then east to Halsted Street to catch
the first of two buses that would carry him to school.

The 17-year-old passes drug houses, vacant lots and abandoned homes
where rotted plywood covers windows and doors. One street, 123rd, is
the dividing line between two gangs. The risks barely register.

"I don't think too much about it," said McFall, a Corliss High School
junior who stands about 6 feet 2 inches tall. "Because who's gonna
change it?"

McFall tries to avoid trouble by following a simple maxim: Keep it
moving. That's what he does when he sees trouble brewing after school,
when a bus stop is too crowded, when teens congregate in front of the
McDonald's where he works.

He was robbed by three men less than a month ago on his way home from
band practice. He has since switched bus routes on the way to school,
and his mother, Angela Caldwell, a local school council member at
Corliss, picks him up nearly every day after school.

As he walked on a recent morning, he paid more attention at Halsted.
The addicts congregate at the corner gas station, he said, and people
get jumped all the time. He hides his school ID to avoid fights with
kids from nearby high schools.

"Anything can happen here," he said.

Keep it moving.

On 115th Street, he waited 20 minutes in a steady rain for a bus as
the sun slowly started to light up the street. On the bus, the crowd
swelled. Soon the driver was idling, waiting until the passengers
moved to the back to let more people on. A woman screamed expletives
at the kids.

The mother of one student warned the woman not to yell. A shouting
match between the two grown-ups escalated as each made violent
threats. For a moment, McFall's face registered concern. Then, as
others laughed, so did he.

A minute later at 103rd Street, the students unloaded. They laughed
harder now, perhaps in relief.

"It's wrong to laugh," McFall said as he walked. "But that's what it's

Students filed past a Citgo station, where crowds gather before
school. The smell of marijuana filled the air.

Keep it moving.

At the school's entrance, students sent their bags and other items
through a metal detector. McFall disappeared among the throng of
students collecting their things on the other end. 
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