It’s been over 25 years, but the sound of the gunshots that went off that Saturday afternoon still reverberate in my mind. My daughter was 11 and I, in a moment of acknowledging that she was old enough, gave her permission, along with one of her friends, to cross North Avenue to go to Beefee at the corner of Lockwood and North Avenue for food. The two girls had just gotten back and were sitting down to eat when the thundering sound of those gunshots went off. The shooter continuing firing as he was driven up my street, forever shattering the image of the calm and peaceful street I purposely chose to live on.
The hail of gunfire didn’t kill the person that they wanted dead. Rather, 14-year-old Rolanda “Kesia” Marshall became the unintended victim. Fourteen or more bullets were fired into that restaurant and one of them hit her. The bullet tore through her head and severed her brain stem. She went into a coma and was placed on life support. She remained in that state for nine days until finally on Sept. 6, 1993, her mother, Alice Norris, made the decision that no mother should ever have to make. She had her brain-dead child taken off life support and allowed her to die.
I never knew Rolanda but through her mother I learned that she was a gifted honor student, who had just graduated from Portage Park School. A wiz at science, she helped other students who weren’t as proficient as she. While at the school, she also started a club called the “LGs,” Lovely Girls, a tribute to the way she was raised, and it went along with her infectious smile. Rolanda was a singer, dancer, actress, writer, cook, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. Her tragic death made her mother a member of the club none of us ever want to join — parent of a murdered child.
Following Rolanda’s murder, the Austin community didn’t show the kind of outrage we should have over such a heinous act. I don’t know why that murder seemed to have gone under the radar. What I do recall is that after the incident happened, we didn’t hear much else. But this coming Friday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m., Rolanda’s mother, along with others, will be at the corner of Lockwood and North avenues. They will be passing out fliers, hosting a balloon release, and asking people to come forward to help solve the murder 25 years later.
We can atone for what we didn’t do back then by coming out and joining Ms. Alice and the others who are the parents of murdered children. Somebody knows something and it’s never too late to tell. A mother’s love is only overshadowed by a mother’s grief. Let’s give Ms. Alice the satisfaction of seeing her child’s killer brought to justice.