When I heard the news that Kristian Marche had died, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.
But somehow, I wasn’t as upset as I felt I should be. Especially considering I knew him personally.
Marche, a standout track athlete and Imhotep Charter grad, was killed on Aug. 13, a day before he was to leave on full scholarship to Penn State. He was shot in the head around 9:30 at night, taken to Albert Einstein Memorial Hospital, and pronounced dead at 6:30 the following afternoon.
Though we weren’t especially tight, we both ran track in Philly, so I knew him well enough to call him a friend. What happened to him was undeniably horrific and unfair. So why aren’t I as broken up about it as I should be?
Because in Philadelphia, things like this happen nearly every single day.
Young black men, people with all the potential in the world and their whole lives in front of them — people like me — are gunned down with shocking regularity.
It’s almost like I’ve grown numb to it.
Kristian wasn’t the first kid to fall victim to Philly’s gun violence, and he won’t be the last.
Out of all the people shot in Philadelphia so far this year, 15.6 percent were black males aged 15-20, according to police data. The numbers were similar last year, when black youths that age made up 14.2 percent of the 1,129 total shootings. That means one of every seven victims of gun violence in this city is a young black man on the verge of adulthood.
Because of his talent, Marche’s death got a lot of attention. And he definitely was special in that regard.
He was a Division 1 recruit in both football and track. As a sophomore, he anchored Imhotep’s state championship-winning 4×100 relay team. During his junior year he was a part of Imhotep’s 4×200 relay, which ranked No. 1 in the U.S. That same indoor season he was ranked ninth in the country for the 200m.
His head coach for his first three years at Imhotep, Jerome Lowery, described Marche as a selfless athlete and someone who always really cared about his teammates. Lowery never forgets what Marche did after suffering an injury during his junior year at the state meet.
“I said to him, ‘I don’t want you to run this relay,’ to keep him healthy so he could run at nationals,” Lowery recalled. “He said he would rather run the relays than run individually. That’s one of the memories I’ll always have of him.”
As outstanding as he was on the track, what I remember most about him was his personality. Marche always had fun — sometimes even while he was running.
I ran for Central in high school, and when I saw Kristian at track meets I remember he would always be dancing, rapping or doing something fun, either to get his team going or to throw his opponents off. Even before the Philadelphia Public League Championships, when everyone else was laser-focused and trying to fend of jittery nerves, you’d see him having a blast.
When my school won the championship my senior year, Marche came up to me talking trash — because that’s what we always did. At the state championships the year prior, we played basketball in our down time, not even thinking about the possibility of injury — and then we all play-fought afterwards, because that’s just what we did.
Now, instead of dancing, talking trash and running fast in Happy Valley, Kristian is lifeless, buried underground.
To see Marche lose his life to gun violence — someone who had worked hard, and earned his ticket out of the city — it makes me realize that these killers don’t care who you are.
For black kids in Philadelphia, turning 18 or 21 often comes with a sigh of relief, rather than celebration. On my 18th birthday, friends were telling me “I made it” — as if I had just been drafted by the Sixers — rather than just the normal “Happy birthday.”
We should be worrying about applying to college, applying for internships, keeping up our GPAs, but instead, we are worried about being shot — or burying our friends who have been.
When tragedy like this strikes, you always see people begging for a change or trying to do things to fix the problem, but it seems like nothing ever works. “Something needs to change,” “Put the guns down” — all the platitudes seem so worn out at this point. The people committing these crimes are not listening.
Statistics like the ones above make me think there will never be an end to this senseless killing.
I just hope I’m not next.