The 15-year-old who was shot the weekend of May 8, 2009, was one of the most intelligent, determined, well-mannered young men I have ever encountered. He represented a person who had worked against the probabilities by acquiring a “double promotion,” moving up a grade level so that he could graduate from middle school.
I had the privilege of tutoring Soheil Turner in math during the summer of 2008. Although I usually request money in advance for tutoring, I really wouldn’t have had a problem tutoring him for free, because he was such an impressive individual. One of the areas we worked on was slopes, the equation of the line — sort of a mixture of geometry and algebra, the type of mathematics one might use for building, architecture or construction engineering.
Ordinarily, someone his age would have given up on formal education and looked for a shortcut in order to achieve success. It is as though the person who took his life by firing two bullets into his head — a case of mistaken identity — represented a philosophy that said, “You’re expendable. There’s a better reason for you to die than to live. Your striving to master academic disciplines is not important. Your intelligence needs to be short-circuited.”
What could the shooter have been thinking?
This event was not just an isolated incident of an innocent person who was viciously attacked. More than one person who could have potentially made a great contribution to the community and to society has lost his or her life to gun violence.
Most people from Roxbury look toward education as one of the main roads toward our progress as a people. We need to look inward, no matter what role we play in the world, and ask ourselves: Do we want to build or destroy?
Do we want to truly know, or think that having a weapon means you know everything? Does that gun do our thinking for us, or do we use our brains?
One thing I learned from Soheil’s death is that no matter what we achieve academically, sometimes there are other obstacles to achieving our goals that have nothing to do with our ability to solve difficult problems or do well in school. Yet it is very important to not get discouraged or intimidated. Often the person with the weapon who resorts to violence is actually very frightened about something his or herself.
In my opinion, the world as it is today doesn’t deserve someone like Soheil Turner. We definitely need to do what we can to help our positive young men and young women to succeed, survive, make this world a better place to live, and keep hope alive.