If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, he might be asking this question: Chattanooga - Why are so many of your young black people dying in this town?
It's a plague upon our community and one that funeral directors know all too well.
Lamunta Williams should be somewhere playing sports or getting ready for his high school prom. Instead, he lies buried at the Highland Memorial Gardens cemetery. He was gunned down last March only a few blocks away from Howard High at just 16-years-old.
Then, two weeks ago, Deontrey Southers was shot dead inside of his home. He was 13-years-old and played football at East Lake Academy.
"Your heart pleads and bleeds because of the fact that you can look at your son and you'll say, 'that could have been my child," says funeral director John Taylor.
As a funeral director, John Taylor is used to staring death in the face. But, he can't get over how many young people he's having to bury these days - far too often children caught in the middle of drug or gang violence.
"Every last one of them has affected my life. When I look at how young they are and that it could have been me," says John Taylor.
The body count over the past 3 years is 13. Over a dozen children under the age of 19 who have been shot and killed in our streets.
Mr. Taylor says these deaths are devastating to the black community and that it's time for everyone to come together to try and stop all the senseless violence.
"That is my goal. Everytime I go through this, my heart goes out, but yet, we see that we still have a quite a bit of work to do," says John Taylor.
Pastor Paul McDaniel is one of those people trying to make a difference, but when he took in one young man to try and help him, the teen turned around and used his church as a recruiting ground to enlist gang members.
"It's a hurting thing, especially when you watch a boy or girl develops, and sees some promise in that person," says local pastor Paul McDaniel.
And these days, those who pull the trigger on these crimes are getting younger.
"Already in my time on the bench, I’ve had a 12-year-old appear who's charged with attempted first degree murder, several 13-year-olds were charged with serious gun crimes," says Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw.
It leaves victims like Lamunta and Deontrey dead in the wake of the epidemic of a youth gone wild in Chattanooga.
By Jerry Askin