The mother is afraid to be alone.
Since the fatal shooting of her 3-year-old son, she has been surrounded at all hours in the traditional deluge of visitors bearing casserole dishes and well-meant words. She knows they’ll leave soon. People have their own lives, their own families. But she needs them now.
In the moments when Roshonda Craig, 26, finds her mind unoccupied, it quickly fills with the sound of her son’s pained last cry. She can repeat it now, and probably in 50 years: weeeehhhhhh.
T’Rhigi Diggs, a toddler who loved trucks and Happy Meals and nursery rhymes on YouTube, died this past Sunday after someone fired a bullet into the SUV his mother was driving on the outskirts of southeast Atlanta. She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she had seen people in a Dodge Charger with paintball guns right before the real gunshot rang out.
DeKalb County police are investigating whether the shooter might have been provoked by the paintball guns and the child got caught in between, among other possibilities, Channel 2 Action News said.
Whatever caused the shooting, T’Rhigi’s mother and his father, Jamel Diggs, 29, are left with a stinging grief for their boy. In an interview Wednesday with The AJC, they seemed to slip away from their pain, however briefly, while remembering him: his kindness to everyone who passed, his dreams of playing football once he learned all the rules, his early love of girls.
Diggs, a barber, said people have been trying to comfort him by reminding him that he still has other children he loves. He struggles to explain it, but somehow losing T’Rhigi feels like losing them all. They were individual pieces coming together in one unit in his heart. Now it’s different.
“I lost a real big part of my life,” he said.
Craig, a cosmetologist, just had one child.
Even before T’Rhigi could speak, he taught his mom a lot. She had spent years running away from home, fighting and roaming the streets, she said. She was filled with anger back then, a youthful anger that’s hard to put into words with the distance of time. But her son fixed that.
“He calmed me down,” she said. “He showed me what love really was. I never really, really, really knew what it felt like to love until I had my baby.”
Even as a toddler, he slept on his mother’s chest at night.
He turned 3 last Friday and got a blue ribbon reading BIRTHDAY BOY pinned to his chest. Two days later, on Easter, he hunted eggs in the sun with his mother filming on her cellphone. He looked happy, running here and there, getting lucky.
Later, as his mother drove, around 11:30 p.m., he began to cry in his car seat.
His mother was passing a Texaco station, near the intersection of Eastland and Bouldercrest roads. DeKalb police on Wednesday released security camera footage from the station showing three possible witnesses with whom detectives are seeking interviews. The people in the Dodge could also be witnesses, though investigators initially thought they might be suspects, officials said.
The mother has been turning the possibilities over in her mind. But she knows she can’t think too much yet, or it will all come back.
The shot. The cry. The wound in his chest. The blood soaking his clothes.
She screamed for help. People came and tried to do CPR.
She kept talking to T’Rhigi, trying to keep him calm. She wanted him to say something. Normally, if he was hurt, he’d at least say, “Mommy.” But now he would only cry without words, that immortal whine: weeeehhhhhh.
It was like he couldn’t hear her, like he wasn’t there. Like she was alone.