I, along with countless people across the nation, am struggling to understand what would possess someone to gun down a 5-year-old child playing in his yard. I've started writing this article two dozen or so times, and ended up deleting everything I'd written because it just didn't seem enough. What can I write that can possibly convey the utter heartbreak, anger, confusion, and genuine fear that this story has made so many of us feel over the past several days?

It took some "mama bear" talk from a co-worker to snap me out of it and help me put pen to paper, so to speak.

On Sunday, August 9, 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant of Wilson, North Carolina was riding his bike in his yard along with his sisters, ages 7 and 8 (Fox News). WTVD-TV reports that around 5:30 PM, Cannon was approached by a neighbor, later identified as 25-year-old Darius N. Sessoms, who pointed a gun at the boy's head and shot him in cold blood.

Sessoms was later captured and charged with first degree murder. Yes, he's in custody. No, that doesn't bring an innocent 5-year-old child back to life or heal the soul-deep wound his family will live with for the rest of their lives.

This week, we've reported on the case of Frankie Gonzales' mother, who back in June reported the child missing, only to admit to hiding his body in a Waco dumpster after he was found. We've also shared the story of Roland and Donna Grabowski, who authorities say killed their 1-week-old son and placed his body in a bucket of tar.

What can any of us say in the face of such reckless evil? We can't possibly make sense of any of this - of the idea of anyone destroying a child.

My nephew was born July 19. I haven't been able to meet him or hold him yet for safety's sake. (Damned COVID.) It's a long story, but our family situation involves people at high risk. Regardless, I love that little boy and my heart feels like a lead weight right now because I don't know what sort of future he's going to inherit.

I know evil like this has always existed, but now that I'm an uncle, it's affecting me far more than it did before.

I got to chatting with my co-worker, Marianne Ward, about Cannon's story. She's one of the most awesome moms I know. I always compare her to Leigh Tuohy from The Blind Side. When I asked for her perspective on this, she wrote:

My thoughts, honestly, are that I’m disgusted that people are turning it into a race issue. This man obviously was not well and unstable. I cannot fathom losing one of my children. I honestly don’t think I’d be able to survive. I cried and sobbed reading the story. It’s every parent's worst nightmare. Your entire being is engulfed in your children. They are my life and my reason for everything. I’m devastated for that family! I’d rather die than lose one of my children.

She had a few choice words for the punishment that would fit the crime, but I will do her the courtesy of not repeating that here.

Police in Wilson have responded to the politicization of Cannon's death as well, writing:

The Wilson Police Department has been made aware of numerous posts containing false information on social media, including some posts that look like they were releases from investigators.

I've seen those as well, and it's disgusting. There's enough hate circulating in the air right now without turning a child's murder into a political football.



That said, I understand how anger can boil over and people can seek to make sense of the senseless. I don't know what was going through Sessom's head when he did this.

Cannon's father, Austin, told WRAL-TV that he'd had Sessom over for dinner the night before the shooting, and that they'd shared a beer on the porch.

I mean, that's about the most American thing you can possibly do: have dinner and a beer with your neighbor while enjoying a summer evening and watching your kids play. That's Norman Rockwell stuff.

"There wasn't anything between me and him, any bad blood whatsoever, for him to have a reason to do this," Austin told WRAL-TV.

I think about the free range I had as a child. I was a latchkey kid in sleepy little Troy, Texas when it was just a couple of blinking red lights and a gas station. I can't tell you how many miles I walked in a day, with friends or alone, and how many times I hopped into the back of the truck of someone I'd seen around town for a ride home if it was getting late. My mom would have had kittens if she'd known.

I think about riding my bike around town, and all the adults I'd wave to, or who'd say hi from their driveways.

Small town living as a kid was wonderful.

The sensation of being a kid was indescribably sublime.

That was taken from a 5-year-old boy named Cannon Hinnant, and until Sessom explains the inner workings of his mind and we're made privy to those conversations, we can't know why. Then again, even with that information, none of this could ever truly make sense.

What we can do is stop for a moment, breathe deep, and think about what each of us is putting out into the world. How do we talk to other people, especially online? How do we treat each other, and how much value do we assign to the lives of people we may disagree with?

I'm as guilty as anyone of smug quips in comment sections and angry remarks when someone says something diametrically opposed to my way of seeing the world.

It's easy to hate and dehumanize, even when we don't feel like that's what we're doing.

Again, there's no making sense of what happened to Cannon, and Sessom will have his time in court. But at the end of the day, all of any of us can do is what it was so difficult for me to do after sharing a string of tragedies - talk about these things, find that common ground of wanting to protect children and seek justice for them, and treat each other better.

If we put enough love out there and have some basic respect for one-another, we will always outshine the darkness.

(Cannon's grandmother started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the boy's family during this time. It's gotten an overwhelming response. If you'd like to contribute, you can do so here.)