After a senseless act of violence, an example of neighborly involvement

LEKA HILL / FOR THE DAILY NEWS Patricia "PJ" Rainey with the neighbor who helped her, Mike Faulkner.
LEKA HILL / FOR THE DAILY NEWS Patricia "PJ" Rainey with the neighbor who helped her, Mike Faulkner.
Posted: June 25, 2013

MIKE FAULKNER stood on his North Croskey Street stoop and gave his neighbor Steffanie Williams a playful I-can't-believe-you head shake.

"You . . . ," he said, referring to the letter she'd written that had brought me to his doorstep.

Williams smiled sweetly from her stoop across the street. "What . . . ?" she responded innocently. "People need to know."

On June 9, a sunny Sunday afternoon, 13-year-old Patricia Rainey was shot in the eye by a stray bullet while she walked home from a park not far from Faulkner's house.

As usual, cops were followed by reporters looking for details in the North Philadelphia neighborhood that too often gets attention only after such senseless acts of violence.

But there was one part of the shocking midday shooting that didn't make the news, which is why Williams wrote that letter to the Daily News.

As Rainey - or PJ as she's called - ran down the street, screaming and holding her left eye, Faulkner reached out and grabbed her.

The 49-year-old construction worker didn't know what was wrong, but by the sound of her screams, he knew it was bad. For a split-second, he was taken aback by all the blood.

"It just keeps replaying in my head," he said. "She kept asking if she was going to lose her eye, and she was worried she was going to get in trouble with her parents."

Faulkner held the teen tight, even when she tried to break free to run again. He took her to his nearby stoop, and comforted her as best he could.

"I promise you, your parents aren't going to be mad," he recalls saying. "You didn't do anything wrong. It's going to be all right."

Faulkner was hesitant to talk. He didn't want anyone thinking he was trying to take attention away from "the real story," a little girl getting shot in her own neighborhood. He wasn't looking for a pat on the back for "just doing the right thing."

But Williams, his neighbor, had other ideas: "As you know, many people don't/won't become involved in such matters, feeling that it's none of their business. How about it's EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS. I'm glad that Mike thought it enough to be his."

Williams, 58, a former corrections officer, has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. She said she's watched Faulkner grow up and out of the streets into a dependable man. His actions, she said, were a reminder of why no one should write off her neighborhood or the people who live in it.

So she wrote that letter. "It's important for people to know that even though this is a bad neighborhood or a bad area we still got good people living here," she said. "You have to live somewhere and everyone can't live in an upper-echelon neighborhood. You have bad people in good neighborhoods and you have good people in bad neighborhoods."

Faulkner was just leaving his house to check on his girlfriend and kids in the same schoolyard park where PJ had been playing when he heard the shots.

"My worst fears just came to my heart," he said. "I was just getting to the corner when this little girl comes running. She was in shock, screaming at the top of her lungs. I grabbed her and asked her, 'What's wrong? What's wrong?' And then I looked at her, and I knew."

He worried about his kids, but he couldn't leave PJ. He picked her up, brought her back to his stoop and called police. Other neighbors gathered. One woman suggested she press her jacket against her eye to slow the bleeding.

Faulkner thought about putting PJ in his car and driving her to the hospital. But then her father and the police arrived. His girlfriend and kids had also come home, safe. He hoped the same for PJ.

A few days later, Faulkner bumped into her father. She'd missed her eighth-grade graduation, he told Faulkner. She lost her eye. But she was alive.

When PJ got home a week after the shooting, her parents held a welcome-home cookout for her on the block.

The tall, slender teen stopped by Faulkner's stoop, this time with a bandage over her eye and a shy smile as she held onto her red punch soda, he said.

She didn't say much. But she did say "thank you."

"I told her, 'If you need me, or anything, just come running.' "


Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

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