Nearly Dead in America


by Cesar Silva

Photo of Cesar Silva by Tyler Ash
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I ask myself everyday, what can I do to be great? I seek the answers…I listen to the wind whisper in my ear…but I hear silence; like the silence I experienced after I was shot 6 times with an AK-47 at the age of 15.

Another long night was coming to an end when my road dog Moreno and I where strolling around the city having one hell of an adventure. We were stealing, drinking, running from cops, and kicking it on the block. Life was simple, all we wanted was excitement and a couple dollars to get us some beers. It was about 1AM and the fog was creeping in fast, making it hard to see anything that was out of our reach. We decided to walk back to Kinston Ave, the block that we called home. With a screwdriver in one hand and a bandana in the other, we were off and Patrolling the bike path that connects the Projects to the rest of Culver City. There was no doubt in our minds that this walk was dangerous, but that didn’t deter us from taking the risk.

There had been various shoot-outs and walk-ups that had occurred in that creek, but we never thought it would happen to us. We were carelessly walking the path and clowning when two shadows appeared under the yellow streetlight; moving towards us fast. We instantly knew something was up, and began shouting at them to identify themselves. We had no options at that moment but to stand tall and yell out our neighborhood at them. They had no words for us…. Gunshots rang out.

I seen a barrage of gunfire headed straight for me, and then a bullet hit my leg. I turn around and start running, holding my head down, protecting it from getting blown up. My buddy runs in another direction and he was gone. I’m running as fast as I can, all I’m thinking is to keep my head down and sprint across to the other side of the creek. I can’t feel any pain as the adrenalin runs through my body and I begin tumbling down the side of the bike path, straight into the water below. I reach the bottom of that creek face down and hear gun shot’s still blasting off. I play dead, hoping that the gunners don’t come down to finish me off.

I lay motionless in the darkness of silence, floating in a foot of cold sewer water, scared and alone with no one around. I wait a few minutes to make sure that someone isn’t coming down to end me. After a few minutes I muster up the courage and strength to turn myself over and look into the sky. I gaze into the depth of the universe, pleading to god from the very bottom of my heart…”Don’t let me die tonight”.

I reached up into the sky that night and as painful as it was, I began to crawl out of the darkness. My right leg weighed a ton, and it had lost all movement. My arms were weak and my back felt like I had been pummeled with stones. I was able to get my upper torso out the water, but that was as far as I could go, the steep incline was too much for me. I looked at my arm and seen a huge hole in my grey sweater. I was paralyzed with fear… I had no strength. I heard voices up above my head and cops running down the creek with their guns out and flashlights blaring. I seen my shiny watch laying right next to me and hoping that their lights would reflect off it, I picked it up and waved it around in the air, screaming… “I’m down here, I’m down here”.

They came down to the bottom of the creek and searched me right away, asking where my gun was. I had nothing for them, no answers…they asked me who the shooters were…once again I had no answers. I couldn’t give them any information. All I could do was make a plea; I asked them that if I die, could they tell my mom that I love her. They replied with a look of disgust in their face, “sure buddy”. These guys didn’t give a shit… I was lying there all alone.

The paramedics finally showed up, and as they pulled me out of the depths, it actually felt like they cared. They took out the scissors out and started ripping off my clothes. I looked over to my left arm and I seen a hole the size of a baseball with dark red blood oozing from it. It was freezing, I was in pain and at that moment and I thought my time was done. 6 firefighters threw me on a blanket and carried me up the side of the creek. I was a heavy kid, probably 180lbs, so it took some work to lift me up. I was rolled into the ambulance and was hooked up to all kinds of IVs and machines. We were moving so quickly that I was scared we were going to roll. I remember hearing the siren on full blast as we speeded our way to the hospital.

Seconds later, I’m laying in a white room with doctors all around me speaking in code. They put tubes down my throat, in my chest, and catheters in places I deeply wished they were not. I was paralyzed by a powerful sedative they injected into me; which kept me awake during the process. I could feel everything they were doing to my body… I tried to scream, but nothing came out. I was forced to endure the pain and agony of every moment

I awoke days later in a hospital room with my entire family standing around; Crying, with tears running down their faces. I tried to speak, but had a tube in my throat, that ran to a machine pumping oxygen into my lungs; it was almost worst than being shot. The entire time I thought I was choking, a slow, constant, suffocating. I was starving, I needed food; I wanted to signal for help, but couldn’t raise a finger. For the next couple of days, I was in and out of consciousness and completely lost track of reality. I remember seeing different family members and friends whenever I woke up. Their eyes were red, and the worry was vividly portrayed in their expressions.

Over the next month, I had countless operations and treatments. I was connected to morphine, and I was given pain meds every day. I left UCLA hospital in a wheelchair 2 months after the nightmare began. The recovery was going to be long, painful, and for the rest of my life. My probation hearing was later that week; where I was found to be in violation of Gang Activity, and given 6 months in a juvenile facility.

. . . to be continued . . .

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