Chicago TV host shows faith, forgiveness after parents’ murder

The recent upsurge in violence in Chicago has received national attention.

The viral online distribution of the video of the murder of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert shined a spotlight on the city’s crime problems and bruised its image, both of which were factors in its rejection for the 2016 Olympics bid.

The trend continued Thursday when a 17-year-old Tilden High School student on the city’s South Side was slain on her way home from school. Lucia Toscano-Escamilla is the fourth Chicago Public Schools student to die in 2009.

The spate of bloodshed touched a well-known local TV personality when the parents of Garrard McClendon were killed Monday in a forest preserve in Calumet City, just south of Chicago. Milton and Ruby McClendon had been married for 54 years and lived in Hammond, Ind., just across the state line from the city.

McClendon hosts local politicians, newsmakers and celebrities on CLTV, a cable spinoff of WGN, which is a national fixture on cable and satellite TV and has been the Midwest’s flagship radio station for decades.

In an interview with a reporting colleague McClendon showed a grace and depth of faith in the midst of the darkest time of his life.

“I’m trusting God right now,” he said. “This is not a material thing to me. This is on the spiritual level for me. It’s painful. It hurts. The vision of my parents being murdered is unbelievable. Having to go to the Cook County Examiner’s office to identify my parents was the most surreal situation I’ve ever been in in my life. … I have forgiven the perpetrators. Do I want them caught? Of course. Do I want justice to be served? Of course. But I can’t live a productive life just in constant pain. … I have to move forward for those around me.”

Further referencing Paul after his conversion from being Saul, persecutor of the Jews (Acts 9:1-19), McClendon added, “This is a Road to Damascus, this is a walk for me right now. I’ve got to maintain that.”

Being able to focus on faith in the face of crushing tragedy is admirable. For cynics who say that reporters should be desensitized to these types of tragedies from being around them all the time, well, they’re wrong. Having seen newsroom colleagues go through personal hardships, including the death of a colleague in a car accident, no one is immune from very raw human emotions.

And that’s what makes McClendon’s reaction with the violence he covers all the more noteworthy when it reaches into his own life.

“My parents were my heroes. They were always looking out for my brothers and myself, always making sure there was food on the table, making sure we valued education, making sure the community was well taken care of. … Everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to have two beautiful parents, so that’s what I focus on. … I thank God that I came from two people that loved each other was stayed together, married for 54 years, who nurtured a beautiful family. Man, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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