If this is keeping our eye on the big picture, we are in trouble.
I returned from a trip to Chicago to find that the controversy over who has the right to sell coffee and noshes to travelers breezing through the Pensacola International Airport has been delayed.
Now it will be Oct. 24 before we can see the rending of garments in public over whether failure to follow directions constitutes unfair bidding practices for the 10-year concessions contract at the airport.
The mayor, the City Council and the folks behind the local consortium have all expended significant political capital over the matter. Opinion pieces and newsletters have been written, letters to the editor published, online comments composed.
It is a decision with potential long-range political and civic consequences, that we have had to put off the final say for two more weeks. Because, it would seem, the distraction caused by the Gulf Power Economic Symposium and the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen may prove too great.
If that is the truth, this community is in trouble deep, folks. Toddlers are distracted by rainstorms and the drive down U.S. 98; adults should not be.
I ate breakfast at the Varona’s inside security at the airport last Friday before my flight out and there nothing particularly Pensacola-centric about the eggs, fried potatoes and wheat toast I ate.
If “local flavor” is a crucial component of what we offer travelers to eat, it should have been important all along, not just when the contract comes up for competitive bid.
And yet here we are, stirred into a civic swivet by the prospect of a Chik-fil-A or an Einstein Brothers Bagels at the airport. And in Pensacola, where when you can’t make a decision, you can always make a delay, we now have two more weeks to stir the pot on this matter.
Meanwhile, what ought to inflame us, what ought to merit a month’s worth of consideration, focus and expenditure of political capital is nearly out of sight and out of mind.
Kenteyonna Anderson still is dead. And no one is in jail for that.
Kenteyonna was a 14-year-old girl, a student at Pensacola High School. She was shot in the 1200 block of West Maxwell Street on Sept. 19, a bystander caught in gunfire, investigators believe, among folks with whom she had no quarrel.
Three days later people attempting to host a vigil near the spot where she was shot were scattered from the area by the sounds of gunfire. At a vigil for a girl killed by errant gunfire.
On Sept. 26, Sheriff David Morgan pleaded with the public for information. He launched an outreach effort with Pastor Rodney Jones to help break down the walls between the community and those who mean to serve and protect it.
Several people were sought for questioning, but the case remains open.
And new wave of sins has filled up the list of news releases issued: A home invasion, a shooting at Ray’s Soul City, a request for help finding a fugitive suspect from a Sept. 17 shooting, plans to boost convenience store security.
That is not so surprising: the rhythm of crime rarely stops, even for a dead high school girl.
A teacher friend of mine had Kenteyonna as a student, as well as her brother: “I am proud to say that I knew this child, that she was a student that every teacher would love to have in their class.
“Great family. And yes wrong place at the wrong time as were many of my other students. Innocent. Running for cover. Two bullets to the front and one to the back, caught in rampant crossfire.
“How sad that as that child lay there exposed to the night trying to scream for help...How sad for the others who couldn’t help until the bullets were gone...How sad that cops have to be present at the funeral. How sad to see my students… devastated and afraid...How said that this wonderful person was never given a chance due to shameless violence occurring….When will it ever stop?”
It won’t stop until we stop looking to the black County Commissioner as if the problem is his and his alone to deal with.
It won’t stop until we do more than say, “folks won’t talk to us,” and count that as investigation enough into the death of a child.
It won’t stop until the people who know who killed Kenteyonna tell what they know, because until they do that, their tears are nothing but false witness to the cycle of violence that spins on before their eyes.
All three of those things must change for this community to grow and prosper -- for all of its citizens.
Selling eats to airport dwellers merits white papers and inquiries and delays so that we can weigh all the factors.
Kenteyonna’s death should merit increased foot patrols, cooperative policing between city and county officials, walking tours for folks who don’t know her neighborhood as well as their own, an increased reward for CrimeStoppers tips that lead to an arrest, the cultivation of sources in the neighborhood who will speak to law enforcement, maybe even protection for those who do offer to come forward.
Kenteyonna’s death is OUR problem. Mine and yours. She is a daughter of Pensacola, too.
Unless we all embrace her, her death will be in vain, lost in the whirl of another news cycle.
UPDATE: The Escambia Sheriff's Office news release issued today names someone wanted in connection with Kenteyonna's shooting.
UPDATE: Oct. 22: The U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force arrested Zachary Anatonio Brooks, 22, of Pensacola in connection with Kenteyonna's shooting. According to a news release from the U.S. Marshal's Service, the shooting arose from a dispute between children in the neighborhood that escalated when adults became involved.