Death of a hoop dream

By MIKE MILIARD  |  August 28, 2008

A fitting monument
Driving around Mason Square, Hornsby Sr. says it often feels in that neighborhood like “nobody wants to get involved. Nobody wants to do nothing.” He’s sensing a shift, though. “What changed it was when my son got killed. Now, all of a sudden, people want to get involved. Now they’re angry. I think they got so conditioned to ‘another gang member being shot’ that, when a good kid got shot down, it disturbed everybody, from the mayor on down.” (Springfield mayor Dominic Sarno declined to comment.)

It’s starting to rain pretty heavily as he points through the windshield at a trio of teenagers standing by the gates of Oak Grove Cemetery. “See those girls standing there? They’re looking at his grave site now. Normally there’s 10 or 12 kids at any given time there. Every day.”

There’s no headstone. Just bunches of flowers. But plans are in the works for a full-size statue, he says, “an eternal memory monument, with lights. We want people to see it.” (Even though it’s more expensive, the Hornsbys chose a spot near the street for better visibility.) Of course, the statue costs “a lot of money. A lot of money.” But “my wife and I are working overtime.”

Even as they do, the Hornsbys keep their home open for Hornsby Jr.’s friends and other neighborhood kids, just like they did before his death. “They come by, they eat, and they talk. Our home is that type of place.”

And they’re that type of people. Seeing the Hornsbys’ self-possession and single-minded seriousness of purpose, it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s only been three months since they lost their first-born son.

In her work with AWAKE, Brown has comforted many parents of murder victims. The Hornsbys, she says, are different. “This case is so special. I’ve never seen — I don’t think the City of Springfield has ever seen — a family more devoted to giving their own story to save someone else’s kids.”

Mike Miliard can be reached at mmiliard@phx.com

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