Twenty five years ago this week, violence broke out in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four LAPD officers of beating Rodney King.
In the end, 54 people died during the riots, and many more came awfully close, like 64-year-old Elvira Evers. She came to the U.S. from Panama and was at home in Compton on the afternoon of April 30, 1992.
She was worried about her teenage son who had gone out with a neighbor, and when Evers went outside to look for him, she was shocked by the looting and rioting.
I saw a lot of people with furniture on top of the car, the truck … there was music … you know, it was like a carnival, and I was like, ‘What’s wrong with these people?’
Evers turned around and quickly felt a burning sensation in her belly.
And I scratched, and when I looked at my hand, there was blood on it. My neighbor was standing right there, she’s a nurse, she said ‘Come over to my house to see what is going on,' so when I went in with her, she told me that it was a bullet.
She never heard it coming. To this day, she has no idea who fired the 9-millimeter gun. They called for an ambulance, but were told it would take at least 45 minutes. So Elvira's neighbor drove her to the hospital: St Francis Medical Center in nearby Lynwood.
There were thousands of people shot during the unrest in 1992, and many of them wound up at St. Francis. Elvira was different. She was nine months pregnant.
Her baby, Jessica, was delivered by Cesarean section. Elvira wound up in a coma for six days. When she awoke, she was terrified her baby had perished.
When I saw Jessica, she was in an incubator … but she had a cast, a little board, was wrapping her little arm and I said ‘What wrong with my daughter?’ And she said the bullet was in her arm, and I said ‘What?’
Told that Jessica was actually doing great, Elvira said “I was more happy to know that she made it.”
Elvira says she had enough of the violence, the death. She moved her family out of Compton to Gardena, which is where you can find Jessica, who is now grown up and the proud owner of Urban Royalty, a clothing store she runs with her two sisters.
On the racks, you can find a mix of stylish dresses and casual wear. A glass case sports an assortment of hats. Jessica says fashion is her favorite pastime. Wearing a white t-shirt, a black hoodie and a studded necklace which spells out her name, you’d never tell she’d been the victim of a shooting ... except for a small scar on one of her elbows.
She calls it "my little souvenir of the riots."
Elvira has a souvenir too, a tiny scar on the right side of her abdomen. It’s just one of many things that powerfully binds this mother and daughter together. Every time, about this year, it’s hard for them not to think about what happened 25 years ago.
For Elvira, one question still haunts her.
I still don’t know why me. It’s not that I get sensitive, it’s just like … how unfair, that they shoot people that don’t have anything to do with that. If I was doing that, I deserve it, but I didn’t do anything for me to deserve that.
On this anniversary of the civil unrest, Jessica is much less focused on the past and is thinking about the present. She and her mom plan to celebrate her upcoming 25th birthday at a nice restaurant. The day is cause for celebration, but there's also a time to pause.
I’m just surprised that I made it to 25. This world is crazy, I never thought I’d make it to 25 … you never know, sometimes you go outside and you won’t come back. I’ve had so many friends pass away, so it’s just like, to make it to 25 – it’s a big deal, I just don’t know what to expect from it.