My first-born son and namesake, Toriano II, was just 16 when he was gunned down outside a decrepit neighborhood supermarket in north St. Louis. Rarely, do I visit the site. Why would I ever want to be where my son took his last breath?
But shying away from the place where my son died would not change the outcome. I had to face head on the realization that Toriano II was gone. There was nothing emotionally easy about the stop. There were no flowers, stuffed animals, written messages, or balloons. Just me and my son’s spirit alone with our intimate thoughts.
Nearly 4,110 days have passed since the death of Toriano II, or Little T as I called him. He was fatally struck in the chest three times at point-blank range as he exited Salamas Market, homicide detectives told me. He didn’t suffer and died instantly, they said.
Police have identified the suspected triggermen. No charges were filed in the shooting. Unreliable witnesses, investigators say. Thankfully, the run-down business at St. Louis and Euclid avenues is now shuttered.
In the 11 year's since Little T's death on Sept. 28, 2009, I've visited the location just once. On Monday, I said fuck it and did what I had to do. After a morning coffee near downtown St. Louis, I cruised through midtown towards the north side of the city, where the trauma of losing both my best friend and son to gun violence has been overwhelming at times. I’ve avoided the area at all costs.
Was I apprehensive about the impromptu visit? Absolutely. Losing a child is, in fact, the worst feeling imaginable. My son’s death did a number on me. The emotionally toll is indescribable. But the road to healing is an everlasting journey. And I am finally at peace with that.