Michigan Town Mourns, 12-year-old Girl Murdered in Chicago

(Tribune) A smile spread slowly across the face of She’Vaughn O’Flynn as an old friend stepped from an SUV outside her home on the main drag of a small town in rural Michigan.

Yolanda Brunt taught O’Flynn 15 years ago and had been her daughter’s school principal until the 12-year-old was shot to death in Chicago earlier this month.

The two embraced in a tight hug, each holding back tears. Brunt handed her a yellow envelope with her daughter’s blue soccer jersey inside. O’Flynn held it against her chest, smiled, then pulled it on over her white T-shirt.

She had spent the afternoon pacing around the yard, checking on traveling relatives, accepting visitors, planning one last stop at the funeral home to make sure her daughter She’Nyah “looked right.”

“I don’t know how to feel. I have never dealt with the death of a child,” O’Flynn said. “It’s something totally different from an aunt, a cousin, even a brother or sister. I don’t even know how to explain it. Everybody is saying I’m staying strong. I don’t feel it. I’m running on fumes.”

But now she had a moment to breathe. A calm came over her as she smoothed her daughter’s jersey.

The next morning, Brunt sang a booming tribute to the girl, moving the packed church to tears.

Mourners spoke about how her death June 14 on the West Side of Chicago — a hundred miles away and seemingly farther in many ways — had brought the town of Covert closer together. Many of them have connections to the city. Some moved here to escape the violence that killed She’Nyah.

“As long as we all breathe, she’s here with us,” her grandmother May Herring told the crowd.

‘We remember why we left’

Covert is a township of 2,800 people spread out over 35 square miles with a town center lined with American flags.

The town has been racially integrated since it was formed in the early 1860s, where black residents were elected to public office, including the state’s first black Justice of the Peace. The community established “their ideology of a community of equality,” according to a history of the town written by Anna-Lisa Cox.

“They made that norm … so normal — that later generations may well have thought that there was nothing so special about their community,” she wrote. “It was home, a small rural community in the middle of the Midwest.”

The ties to Chicago often go back generations. Continue Reading

Article Org: chicagotribune.com

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