The Williams family finished blowing off the last of their fireworks in West Englewood late Monday.
The extended family had gathered for the Fourth of July on Hermitage Avenue, just south of Garfield Park on a block of graystones and bungalows just east of Damen Avenue.
From a nearby alley emerged a man who started shooting. Dozens scattered. Children and adults screamed and ran.
Five-year-old Taniyah Williams fell, shot in her leg. Her 8-year-old cousin Corey Bondurant kept running, also hit in his leg. Shell casings littered the alley just south of Garfield.
Darryl Smith, 17, was about to talk to his grandmother on the porch of her nearby home when the shooting started.
“My first instinct was to run inside the house,” Smith said. “Once I ran inside, they said the kids were outside. So I ran outside to see the kids are OK.”
The gunfire continued.
Two others — a 19-year-old woman and 30-year-old man — were also hit in their legs. The children were playing with sparklers on the sidewalk when the gunfire started.
Smith looked around to see if anyone was shot and saw his cousin, carrying Taniyah up to the porch, bleeding from her leg. The cousin carrying Taniyah was having a panic attack, Smith said.
Smith grabbed another cousin’s car keys. The panicking cousin put Taniyah in the car, and Smith drove to Comer’s Memorial Children’s Hospital, the only trauma center he knew to be the closest.
“My only priority was to get her to the hospital,” Smith said. "I literally ran through every red light."
Smith said the four-mile drive took five minutes.
Taniyah was in the backseat, being comforted by her older brother. She did not cry. Smith said she only kept repeating: “I’m not going off the porch no more. I’m not going off the porch no more.”
Smith arrived at Comer’s and found his cousin was not the only victim.
In the commotion that occurred after the shooting, it took the family a few moments to realize that another child — Smith’s youngest brother — was also shot. The boy, Corey, was shot through the ankle, with the bullet breaking bones. He ran to a relative’s home and sat in a kitchen chair after the shooting, bleeding from his leg.
“I think I freaked him out and scared the hell out of him,” said his mother, Alisia Williams, 38. “I think he was kind of in shock like he didn’t feel it at first.”
Williams said she was outside on the block when the shots rang out. Her relatives pushed her inside her aunt’s house. Someone told her about her son Darryl driving his cousin to the hospital.
A moment later, one of her relatives yelled: “Your son is shot. Your son is shot.”
Williams said she turned to Corey and saw that he was also bleeding. The blood stained new white Air Jordans — a gift from his father for the holiday.
Williams started crying, and Corey did too when he saw his mother crying.
Doctors prepped the older boy for surgery before midnight. They needed to repair his broken bones, relatives said. While they were tending to his wound, relatives gathered outside the emergency room entrance. His mother hugged relatives as they arrived and took a seat on a curb when the stream of relatives ceased.
“I had walked past this hospital and saw this happening — people interviewing people about someone being shot,” said Williams, shaking her head. “Never did I thought it be me and my boys. Never. Never.”
The Williams family has lived on the 5500 block of South Hermitage Avenue for decades. Her 83-year-old grandmother has lived there since 1974. Her aunt lives in a house next door. Other relatives also live on the block and in the nearby area.
“It’s a family block,” Williams said. “We never had any problem.”
The last shooting on the block was about a year ago, though the neighborhood often logs more shootings than other neighborhoods in the city.
The relatives of the two wounded kids talked to each other in a daze outside early Tuesday. Some were outside on the block and heard shots. Some got called to come to the hospital. Some saw glimpses of the shooters before they fled.
Moments before the shooting, Shirley Williams, 58, said she went for a walk around the block on Wood Street, the next street west of Hermitage. The block was quiet, too quiet for the Fourth of July evening, Williams said. So she sped up her walk.
That’s when she saw three young men she had never seen before.
“I thought, ‘These boys looked strange,’” she said. “It had to be them.”
Another relative, Steven L. Jones was outside and said he saw a shooter, his gun and muzzle flash. He let at least nine shots go before fleeing west.
“I honestly don’t know why it happened,” Smith said. “I’m pissed off.”
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