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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

Blood on the Streets


Abstract reflections of a red stoplight on a wet city street at night

Reading the news can be a harrowing experience. Every day, we hear about savage cruelty being unleashed around the globe — brutal, bloody wars where schools and hospitals are shelled, civilians are used as shields and women are raped by invading fighters. 


Here in the U.S., we have another kind of violence to contend with. By early December last year, there were more than 630 mass shootings in our country, according to the Gun Violence Archive. (A mass shooting is defined as an attack in which four or more people are injured or killed.)


I remember a time when you couldn't imagine a lone gunman walking into a school, church or grocery store and slaughtering innocent people. Now it happens with frightening regularity.


Don’t get me wrong: I’m not naive. I know that violence has always been part of the human story, going back to the beginning of our history.


But somehow, somewhere along the way, the lid has been torn off the box containing our darkest urges and all hell is breaking loose. 


Shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, I saw a photograph that left me devastated. A six-year-old Ukrainian girl was killed by Russian shelling of a residential area. She lay on a stretcher in her blood-soaked pajamas, the life draining out of her as an ambulance paramedic worked frantically to save her. The little girl's injured father knelt at her side sobbing and holding her hand as she died.


It was too much for my heart to bear.


My hope for 2024 is that for one month, or one week, or even one day, the only red we see spilling on the streets is what I’ve photographed in the picture above: the reflection of a red stop light on wet pavement after an evening rain.




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