Neither parent felt ready yet to go back to work. The father is not even sure he can drive a livery cab anymore. Whenever he is at the wheel and sees a large vehicle coming toward him, he is seized with terror, imagining it’s about to smash into him. His wife, who’d become a home health aide, struggles with new fears, too. “Any boy I see, I don’t trust them,” she says. “Maybe they have something to kill somebody in a minute.”
Three teenagers, including Henriquez, are now on Rikers, charged with murder or gang assault; the other boys who were involved remain at large. In the Jalloh family’s first weeks back in New York, more than 100 people came by to pay their respects. But no matter how many people offer them sympathy, it seems they cannot shake the feeling of being newly adrift in a foreign land. “I brought my son here to save him,” Umaru says. “I do my best to make sure nothing happen to him. But now, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Someday, maybe it will be Mohamed Jalloh that the old folks back in Africa talk about when everyone gathers after dinner, seated around a fire beneath the stars: Here is the story of a young man who survived Sierra Leone’s civil war, who fled the country atop his father’s shoulders, who made it all the way to New York, only to confront the same fate he’d so narrowly escaped as a boy.