'Cradle 2 Grave' shows teens reality of gun violence

January 5, 2013 3:28:04 AM PST
A groundbreaking local program shows Philadelphia teenagers the gruesome reality of gun violence.

"Cradle to Grave" at Temple University Hospital, targets its victims, the majority of whom are young, black men. In essence, it is an attempt to scare them straight, and maybe break the cycle of violence.

Philadelphia ended 2012 with a homicide rate on the rise, and entered the New Year on the same deadly track.

As a result, this program has never been more important.

Late Thursday night on September 23, 2004, 16-year-old Lamont Adams is shot a dozen times near the home he shared with his grandmother in Northeast Philadelphia.

Lamont was rushed to the hospital where he died.

Lamont's tragic story is now the centerpiece of this unique program at Temple University Hospital.

"Cradle 2 Grave" brings teenagers into the harsh reality of gun violence at the hospital level and shows them what happens after the shots are fired.

The group is ushered into the ER Trauma room where Lamont's treatment is reenacted.

Red stickers show 24 bullet wounds; 12 entry and 12 exit wounds. Then using actual instruments, the teens open Lamont's chest to get his heart pumping with the assistance of Dr. Amy Goldberg.

"You just bang on the blade here and it splits the sternum in half," she demonstrates.

Then a bigger reality check, group pictures, graphic photos of what bullets do to human flesh.

The reactions are sobering, and for 16-year-old Nasir Causey and 15-year-old Anthony Gouzman it hits shockingly close to home.

"My best friend P got shot the same night that I was chilling with him," said Nasir Causey.

"There were three of my friends that died when they got shot up in a car," said Anthony Gouzman.

"I don't want to be in that situation," Nasir said. "I don't want to put none of my family and none of my friends in that situation."

"I learned a lot," said Anthony. "I never thought that I would see something like this that I saw today."

And that's exactly what program director Scott Charles hopes is the result for all the kids.

"I think the one message is that you matter, and you only have one shot at this, and you have to protect this gift with your life," said Scott Charles.

Scott says it is not enough to rely on survivor's stories from friends and relatives.

"Naturally they are going to want to say it's not that bad, because once you've been injured and you have been made that vulnerable, you have to put that armor back on to go back out there," said Scott.

But it's not over yet. The group's last stop is the morgue where there are no tears and no candles.

"We strictly cut them and gut them and on to the next one," Greg from the morgue told them.

The message is instilled one more time, death is final.

"Once you make it here, that's it. It's a wrap," Greg said.

Since the program started seven years ago, 7,000 teenagers from all over the region have participated.

Organizers continue to thank Lamont Adams' grandmother for allowing them to tell his story.

If you are interested in having a group take part in "Cradle to Grave" at Temple Hospital, go to http://www.cradletograveprogram.com