Philly funeral homes and mosques hit historic gun violence crisis


West Philadelphia funeral director Michael Forrest can understand. That’s why he tries his best to leave his job at the office.

At the end of each day, he comes home, looks at his children’s faces, and resets himself.

“I would have PTSD. I couldn’t do it, ”Forrest said in a recent interview at his tidy business, Forrest Walker Funeral Home in West Philadelphia.

The work is still taking its toll.

Unlike many of his counterparts, Forrest controls every step of the business. He said everyone was more trying when working with a family that has lost a loved one to violence.

“I’m not necessarily blamed for it, but sometimes I’m the punching bag because I’m the one they can go after because I’m sitting there. I am an easy target, ”he said.

Forrest takes care of all the embalming. The process brings him face to face with every gunshot victim who walks through the doors of his Cobbs Creek funeral home.

And it is not a short process. Embalming a person killed by a gunshot can take up to five hours, more than double what it typically takes to preserve a person who died of natural causes.

“You can have multiple gunshot wounds and you have to sew those holes. You have the exam the medical examiner does, regardless of any cuts he may have. And you have to bring these people together and make them presentable – like it’s never happened, ”Forrest said.

Michael Forrest is the director and owner of Forrest-Walker Funeral Home in West Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter / WHYY)

Organizing more funerals for the gunshot victims also made his business more dangerous.

Even before the current city-wide crisis, Forrest said it was not unusual for the perpetrator of a shootout or a member of a rival street group to poke their head in a funeral service. . And he said there is always the possibility of someone showing up in a church or cemetery to fire a few shots, usually from a moving car.

“Some want revenge, some want to make a point, some want to scare the family,” Forrest said.

When it happened last year, Forrest wanted to run.

“I don’t want to get stuck in someone else’s beef, for lack of a better term, and just become a statistic because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

He is also concerned that his staff will be injured.

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