BROWNSVILLE — A group of city teens got a look at the horrors of gun violence Thursday afternoon with a trip to the morgue at Brookdale Hospital.
About 50 students from various youth groups across the boroughs listened to a shooting survivor share his story about being wounded as a teen, then watched a series of graphic videos about surgeries for gun-wound victims. But it was the trip into the morgue that brought the message home, the group said.
“It's an eye opener," said Kevin Brown, 16, a summer volunteer at youth-mentoring program 1199. "It's kind of scary."
The project, called “It Starts Here,” aims to reduce violence by providing at-risk youth with an up-close look at the impact shootings have on victims and their families.
The kids met with Marlon Peterson, a criminal justice advocate and a shooting survivor who later spent 10 years in state prison, then heard from Dr. Patricia O’Neill, the chair of surgery and trauma at Brookdale Hospital.
"This is heavy stuff," said Peterson, now 36. "I'm someone who's been shot. I'm someone who's gone to prison for violence. You all have tremendous ability to be the change. Do those things."
Kids then watched a graphic video of a bullet being removed from a victim's eye.
"What you see on TV and in the movies is not what we see on a daily basis here," O'Neill said. "It's not just about death. We have individuals who suffer paralysis and permanent head injuries."
The hospital treats about 225 gunshot victims each year, roughly one every 36 hours.
"I don't want nobody to see me in the morgue," said Amir Major, 14, who visited the hospital with a Brownsville-based youth sports club. "It's difficult to look at, thinking what his family had to go through and wondering what his life was like."
As intense as the day was, Peterson insisted the purpose wasn't to spook the kids, but more to have them gain perspective.
"Life happens real fast," he said. "When it comes at you, all that you saw and heard today has to come into play."