WASHINGTON - Last summer, a Southwest D.C. girl became the face of the growing wave of violence in the District of Columbia. Taije Chambliss’ story struck a chord with many after she was wounded in a drive-by shooting in front of her home last August that forever changed her life.
“I just cry a whole lot now,” the 14-year-old said. “Just cry a lot.”
Taije had just come back from the library across the street from her house when she was struck by several stray bullets.
“I wish I don't live in this neighborhood,” she said. “I wish there were no shootings at all.”
Six months later, Taije continues to have to miss school due to her recovery and countless doctor visits.
Taije, her four siblings and her mother have had to move out of their home and now live in public housing.
The girl’s mother said after the shooting, the community as well as city officials rallied behind them. But since then, she said they seem to have been forgotten.
"They were traumatized,” said, Taije’s mother, Lakesha Chambliss. “Traumatized. No help.”
The family said the conditions where they are currently living are lacking.
"[The] children were wetting the bed,” said Lakesha. “They didn't want to go to the bathroom because of the rats. They were afraid."
In addition to the rats, Lakesha said, “The bugs get into the refrigerator. It’s not safe.”
Their oven and stove also do not work.
"They said wait until they contact me,” Lakesha told us. “Nobody ever contacted me. Never contacted me. I call housing every day since that.”
Taije's mother said since the shooting, she has persistently called the housing department after being promised a new unit back in November. She said she is still waiting to move.
"August came, Taije was shot, and they still had us here,” she said. “She had to face these people every day."
Despite reading at least two books a week, Taije has seen her grades slip. She sleeps in the same bed as her little brothers and sister. She dreams of a day where she can play without pain.
“A couple of days ago, I was trying to play with my friends and I kept on falling all over the place,” said a teary-eyed Taije. “When I came home, I was sore real bad and my legs were hurting, and I was like I can’t play with my friends regularly anymore.”
She also dreams of reading books in college.
"I’m capable of a lot of stuff,” she said. “I’m multi-talented.”
She wants to attend Penn State University like her cousin, who is her role model. But for now, her reality is a harsh one for a child whose biggest hope is to one day live in a peaceful neighborhood.
"After the shooting, I was helping my grandmother to cook and I was making these biscuits,” Taije recalled. “So when I opened the container, it went pop and I froze. And then after, my brothers and sisters, they thought it was a joke, so they started laughing and I started crying and it was just horrible.”
Last weekend during the stretch of cold weather in the area, the family had to move out of their home and into a hotel room. It was simply too cold for them. The family is hoping that the city will come through with their promise and they will be able to move into a new unit.