Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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a nine-year-old girl is found in the stairwell of a crack house in chicago. she has been repeatedly raped. her stomach contains gasoline. on her body is the mark of a gang insignia, a pitch fork, made with something like a magic marker.

when she is found she is unconscious. blood, drool, and semen smear her face. her eyes, swollen from strangulation, stare bloodshot straight ahead. even the kindness of death has escaped her.

her fingers, cracked by brute force against futile resistance, are curled up in weird angles at the ends of her limp, bruised arms. her chest heaves involuntarily as her heart works desperately to pump a few more times.

the stairwell spirals in both directions, echoing moans and screams that, like the wind, seem to come from everywhere and go nowhere. a light between the sixth and seventh floors flashes bright elecric blue-white, then dies, leaving a dank, horrible twilight.

the tall building is in a row with others like it, in a neighborhood with other rows. the sounds are of busy-ness, of car horns, of shouts, of occasional gunfire. the sights are of bars and broken glass, stripped cars, and people chasing, people fleeing.

the blighted neighborhood is nestled among other finer neighborhoods, where good citizens have paid their taxes and settled their debts with the statistically poor, out of sight, out of mind.

the president is having coffee with a millionaire from an enemy state. the congress is arguing over four billion versus six billion out of two trillion. The judges are deciding what all of it means.

above the din of american society, amidst a wild and chaotic blend, the lone thought of a helpless girl cries out to an angry god, "where is my mother?"