The Sunday Garden-July 19th
The sun was beating down hard on that summer Sunday afternoon, as an African American woman was cultivating the weeds from her backyard garden. She had planted tomatoes, beans, eggplants, and green peppers after Mother's Day that spring, and her expansive vegetable garden was starting to grow.
It had been a very wet spring, and the summer sun on that July afternoon was now providing the light and heat to make the plants in her vegetable garden flourish.
The older, politically connected woman found solace in her gardening. Her backyard vegetable, 'mini-farm,' felt like miles away from the reality of her all-too-important position within the City of Chicago and City Hall. She habitually put on her gardening gloves, took out her garden tools, and shut off her cell phone every evening after work.
The woman had very few activities that she truly enjoyed, and gardening in her backyard was practically her only passion. Her bodyguards and police detail stood outside in front of her red-brick bungalow house in Logan Square. With the recent racial riots, 'Black Lives Matter' marches, and now the rampant looting that has been going on in the Chicago Loop, the former assistant prosecutor felt like her life and her administration was constantly being threatened.
At the age of fifty-five, Mayor Janice Kollar had been elected as the Mayor of Chicago almost three years ago. To say that her mayoral term as the city's new boss has been going anything but smoothly was an understatement.
There was in-fighting in the City Council, making it almost impossible to pass a favorable city budget. She was at odds with the Chicago School Board and the Chicago Teacher's Union over teachers' demands for pay raises and strike threats.
But most of all, the city's murder rates are at their highest that they have been in the last thirty years, despite her platform of cracking down on gang fighting and intercity violence. The dubious title of 'Murder City USA' had been famously passed onto the Windy City. The mayor was under a tremendous amount of pressure from as high up as the President of the United States to do something about it.
From all the observers from every direction nationwide, the City of Chicago's crime rate was spiraling out of control. Young children were being shot and killed for merely walking home from school or playing on the street. Arsons, building defamation, and destruction were on the rise. Drive-by shootings were becoming a daily routine in the dangerous south and west side neighborhoods and on the expressways.
Vehicles were getting car-jacked with young children still inside. Home burglaries and car thefts were rising in every Chicago neighborhood. Drunk driving incidents within the city were becoming commonplace. Violent rapes and brutal, inter-racial beatings were going on everywhere. Illegal drug use and sales were rampant and out of control.
The black and Latino gangs were now taking over the streets, especially on the South and West Sides. The city's civil unrest was getting worse by the day, with every summer weekend highlighting higher murder and crime incidents than the weekend before.
The Chicago Police Department was fighting a losing battle. They were all ordered by the mayor's office not to retaliate against mobs of rioters and looters destroying the city, using a 'Black Lives Matter' mantra.
Alderman Jose Sandoval from the West Loop neighborhood has now called for Mayor Kollar's resignation. He was verbally making the same observation that most of the other aldermen within the City of Chicago have privately and publicly concluded:
The mayor has lost control of the city.
According to the Chicago Tribune's current headlines on that Sunday, the City of Chicago was out of control. It was clear to everyone that the current mayor could not maintain law and order within the Second City.
Despite the increased crime rates and the interracial riots occurring daily within the City, Mayor Kollar was in her garden on that Sunday afternoon, trying to put all of that out of her mind. Her gardening was the only activity that seemed to calm her down, as even her doctors had warned her of the increased stress levels that her job was putting on her physically.
As an African American, openly gay mayor, Kollar was expected to do great things in the city. She was elected on an anti-crime platform. The young white and openly gay millennials and the African American community hoped to implement positive liberal change and control the city's rising crime rates.
Kollar grasped her hand trowel and gardening tools and got down on her knees, getting her new blue jeans extremely dirty. She was fervently pulling weeds, turning over the dirt, and pruning the growing tomato plants that were now showing newly sprouted vegetation. Her garden was indeed her place of refuge. With every turn of her hand trowel, with every weed she pulled from the ground, her magnanimous problems running the city seemed further and further away.
As Mayor Kollar stood up, two loud sniper shots were suddenly coming from the house's direction next door.
It was 4:26 pm.
The mayor's domestic partner, Sheila Peacock, was inside preparing Sunday dinner that afternoon when she heard the loud shots. When she looked out the window towards the backyard garden, she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Mayor Janice Kollar was sprawled on the ground, blood seeping from the back of her head onto her meticulously groomed vegetable garden.
Peacock ran outside to get the police detail in charge of protecting the mayor, and the emergency 911 number was immediately called. Within five minutes, several EMS trucks from the Chicago Fire Department arrived in front of the mayor's home. The paramedics rushed to the mayor's sprawled body and began giving her CPR and trying to revive the fallen city leader.
The mayor's domestic partner watched in horror as the paramedics worked on Kollar, hoping beyond hope that she could be revived. She had suffered two bullet wounds in the back of her head, and it was apparent that a high-powered rifle was used. She was gravely and mortally wounded before her body hit the ground.
The EMS paramedics from Chicago Fire Engine No. Twelve quickly loaded the gravely wounded mayor onto a stretcher and rushed her to Northwestern Hospital's Emergency Room.
It was 4:35 pm.
When she arrived there, several doctors immediately brought her into surgery to repair and remove the bullets that were still lodged in her head. Her heart had stopped pumping twice, and she had to be paddled back to life while the Emergency Room physicians continued to work on her.
But unfortunately, her heart monitor flat-lined for the third time, as all the doctors looked up at the clock.
The City of Chicago's Mayor Janice Kollar was now dead, horrifically killed from two bullets fired by an unknown sniper.
It was now 4:53 pm.
Within thirty minutes, the horrifying assassination of Chicago’s first openly gay, black woman mayor had been accomplished. The first time a Chicago mayor had been killed in office since Mayor Anton Cermak had been killed in Miami by a lone assassin with connections to the Chicago underworld in 1933.
By five o'clock, all of the television news channels interrupted their regular Sunday afternoon broadcasts to make the emergency announcement.
The Reverend Fr. Colin J. Fitzgerald, or 'Father Fitz' as he was affectionately called, had been relaxing in the living room of his rectory at St. Simeon Catholic Parish on East 79th Street in Chicago.
The Catholic priest was an older pastor in his mid-sixties, around six feet tall with salt and pepper hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Fitzgerald had become very popular within the Chicago media for his very vocal, well-publicized news conferences, which he always held on his church's front steps.
Fr. Fitz was well known for denouncing the rising violent crimes and moral injustices against humanity within the city. His very vocal opinions and principled stands have now made him the moral conscious of Chicago. He had also led a well-publicized anti-abortion rally last year in front of Chicago-Western Medical Center when the Illinois legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), repealing the state's Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Illinois Abortion Act of 1975.
Fr. Fitz has always been very outspoken in the news media to the Archdiocese of Chicago's chagrin. He had become a prominent activist against the city's violence over the last twenty years.
He had been perusing the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune and was trying to rest after saying three, long, uncomfortable masses that day.
His old, one-hundred-ten-year-old church was without air conditioning that Sunday, which made saying morning masses under such warm conditions even more unpleasant. He had put out a public request at all the holy masses for someone to donate their services in either repairing or replacing the parish air-conditioning units.
His large, Gothically designed church was located in a predominately poor, black neighborhood, and donations for repairs to the old church's antiquated air conditioning units were desperately needed.
A fan was blowing from the corner of his living room as Fr. Fitz sat there in a white tee-shirt and shorts, trying to stay cool with the July temperatures exceeding 98 degrees.
He was watching a televised baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers at that moment when a special news broadcast comes on the television:
"WMRQ Eyewitness News has just learned that the Mayor of Chicago, Janice Kollar, has been assassinated in her home in Logan Square approximately thirty minutes ago. She was rushed to Northwestern University Hospital's emergency room and underwent surgery when the doctors there pronounced her dead at 4:53 pm."
Fr. Fitz went into shock. He immediately buried his head in his hands, then grasped the gold crucifix that he always wore before saying a quick prayer out loud. Next to the couch where he was sitting was the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune, displaying the headlines from their veteran reporter, Lawrence McKay.
He looked at the Sunday edition with tears in eyes, now agreeing with the reporter's captions and assessment of the city's current state of affairs:
The City of Chicago Now Up for Grabs