NEW YORK CITY — Several times each week, Shianne Norman lays in bed in the early morning with her eyes wide open and images flickering through her mind as if in a slideshow.
There is the one of her adorable 4-year-old son at the beach at Coney Island with a turquoise sand pail by his feet and an infectious smile across his face. There's the image of him sitting on his bed in a white T-shirt, hands locked innocently, an oversized Yankees cap on backwards covering his ears.
But every now and then, another picture of Lloyd Morgan Jr. creeps into Norman’s head. It is the one of him laying motionless on the concrete playground, his black Nike sneaker astray and his eyes shut.
It’s been a year since little Lloyd was killed by a stray bullet, an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of a lingering gang feud in the Forest Houses in Morrisania. But the horrors of July 22, 2012, are still fresh to Norman.
“Every hour, I think about him,” she told DNAinfo New York, tears streaming down both cheeks. “I think about what he would’ve looked like. I think about what he sounded like. I’ve been thrust into the present that I had no idea was even possible.”
Norman, 28, remembers the day vividly. She remembers the gray Levi shorts her son was wearing and the white Gap T-shirt he sported. She remembers a trip to the supermarket and then to Dunkin' Donuts hours before they went over to Morrisania that summer night to watch a playground basketball tournament in honor of Courtney Kelly, 27, who was stabbed to death in 2010.
And then she remembers the gun shots ringing out — first a single pop then, moments later, a barrage of bullets, sending the crowd scattering.
“I immediately, immediately started calling Lloyd’s name because we were leaving and he had ran back off,” Norman said recently, staring intently as she replayed the scene in her mind.
“What I initially saw was his sneaker. I saw the bottom of it. I had seen the bottom of that sneaker so many times in my house. I jump over a gate, and I run to him. Nobody was around, and I ran to him, and…” she paused, choking back tears.
“He had a hole in his head," she continued. "That’s how I knew he was gone.”
The TV trucks arrived in droves the next morning to Norman’s Manor Avenue home in Soundview. Her longtime boyfriend and Lloyd’s father, Lloyd Morgan Sr., quietly told a couple of reporters Lloyd Jr. was the second child he had lost. In 2006, his girlfriend strangled his newborn daughter in Brooklyn.
Later that morning, Norman, dressed in a red and gray striped T-shirt, her braided hair sloped over her right shoulder, gathered herself and walked outside their apartment building and told of how she called her son “Little LeBron” and “President Obama.”
“He was going to be a basketball player and the next black president, too,” Norman, who was working as a cook at Carnegie Hall, said at the time.
She urged anyone with information to share it with the police.
“There’s no snitching when it comes to a 4-year-old,” she said through sobs.
Cops later that week arrested four men in connection with the fatal shooting, including the alleged triggerman, Rondell Pinkerton, who is facing murder and weapons charges and is being held at Rikers Island. Pinkerton is next due in court Sept. 17.
About six weeks after the shooting, their hearts still crippled and the tears still flowing, Morgan Sr. and Norman received unexpected news. Norman was pregnant with another child.
The congratulatory text messages and phone calls began pouring in. But most of them didn’t sit well.
“‘Oh God’s looking out. There you go. Everything’s going to be right with the world,’” Norman recalled being told countless times. “I could have 99 more kids, and I will still always have 100 with one missing.”
Eleven months later, Lauren Morgan rests peacefully in her grandmother’s caressing arms inside the Manor Avenue apartment. She is the newest member of a family that has dealt with excruciating despair over the last year. Norman is quick to point out that Lauren is not a substitute for Lloyd and does not ease the grief the family has endured.
She does, however, have some familiar traits.
“She’s been smiling since day one,” Norman said. “I look at her and she looks like him when he was a baby. It always gets me. They look exactly alike.”
The what-ifs still come to mind frequently, she said, and she quickly tears up at the thought of where Lloyd would be now, then in five years, then a decade from now.
She stressed that while Lloyd Sr. is passionate about basketball and would’ve wanted his son to pursue the professional possibility for as long as he could have, she wanted him to focus more on academics and was excited that he was supposed to begin school last fall.
The intense stare returns as the reality again plays through her mind.
“He was literally 4 for less than two months before he was taken,” she said. “He didn’t have a lot of firsts. No teeth came out. Getting him to remember his colors, ABCs and 123s. I’m left with, with just not much time.
“I didn’t get any time. His personality, things that were just starting to develop for him, and he was stolen. I grieve for the future that I don’t have.”
The TV cameras and photographers are long gone at this point and the blitz of text messages has subsided.
“Being in the news was my worst nightmare,” Norman said. “I don’t want to be famous. And I damn sure don’t want to be famous for, ‘Oh you’re Shianne Norman. You’re the mother of the 4-year-old who died in the park.’”
Norman has a new job, working as a line cook at a service provider near Grand Central station. She eagerly embraces this more routine life in which she isn’t bombarded by friends, politicians and members of the media.
She hasn’t made up her mind on what she will do to mark the one-year anniversary of Lloyd’s death, if anything. But she is happy that she will be able to spend the day in relative seclusion.
“This year, literally, felt like two days. The day my son passed and now, here it is, a year later,” she said.
"Not to say I haven’t had my moments in between, but even in between those moments when I’m at my happiest, he is right there. But he’s not right there.
“He’s in my heart, though.”