The operator from a S.C. jail says, “You have 15 seconds left on this call.”
“Let me call you right back,” the woman tells me.
She’s in jail for attempted armed robbery – since 2013.
My reason for speaking with her – her 19-year-old son was shot dead a month before right here in Lancaster.
The last time she saw him – 2014.
And she isn’t allowed to go to his funeral.
I sit there and wonder how we got here, wonder why this happened.
I remember two days before, sitting down with another mother whose 17-year-old son was fatally shot.
I think about my grandparents who lost their son – my uncle – when he was just 19 years old. He was stabbed in the back with a knife at a football game.
I wonder – why so young?
Is it jealousy over a girl? Is it anger over who won a game? Is it because a bully’s feeling threatened?
What during teenage years could be horrible enough to kill somebody? Somebody with a whole life ahead of them.
My off-the-record conversations later tell me the truth, and it wasn’t just a silly game.
My goal with every interview I do on the streets and with families after the murders is to find those answers, regardless of how badly I annoy the cops and friends and eye-witnesses and family members I interview. I do it because it’s a public safety issue. I do it to inform the public about what’s really going on.
The phone is on speaker. The boy’s grandmother and aunt, who took care of him after his mother went to jail, sit on the sofa beside me.
The mother mentions her nine children.
But this one – he’s always stood out, she says.
I hold back my tears and finish my last questions.
I let her pause to hold her tears back, too, and finish her answers.
And I leave the home with a little bit of peace, hoping I gave the family some closure.
Follow Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong