There are 8 million people in New York City and about that many in the surrounding suburbs. Sometimes they collide, as Sirmone McCaulla and Christopher Gutierrez did. “I just got off the bus from New Jersey,” McCaulla, 28, later recalled on his Facebook page, “was just tryin’ to make it home to see my daughter.” Instead, McCaulla said, he and Gutierrez bumped into each other on the sidewalk and Gutierrez, 20, got aggressive, as young males sometimes do. The incident ended when McCaulla plunged a knife into Gutierrez three times, killing him. In his Facebook statement, which served as McCaulla’s farewell before he took his own life, he explained: “When someone is tryin’ to hurt me I get defensive.”
That same weekend, my teenage boy sauntered off to his high school’s football game. The games are usually held at night, but this one took place on a Saturday morning, the better to ward off violence. Some kids at his high school hate some kids at the rival school and vice versa. My son doesn’t know why—not that Jets and Sharks have ever needed a reason. The switch to daylight was occasioned by a shooting at a night game a few years back, and a street brawl last year. The gunplay has the aura of suburban legend, but I suppose it’s true. Like other suburbs, ours is not immune to violence, and our kids surely know the adolescent allure of acting tough. So before my boy walked out, I made a point of kissing his forehead. It doesn’t help, I know. But it’s the only collision insurance I’ve got.