At just 20 years old, Kaylyn Pryor, ETHS track star, graduate, and aspiring model, was shot and killed in Englewood in November 2015 after a visit to her beloved grandparents' home. She was walking to the bus stop on her grandparents' block, 74th and South May Streets -- the very block where her dad Alan Nick Scott and his four siblings had grown up.
This past Saturday, thanks to the advocacy and hard work of Kaylyn's cousin Ravyn Thomas, an honorary street sign, "Kaylyn Pryor Way," was unveiled at 74th and South May. Friends and family from Evanston, Chicago, and others who came in from out of town were joined by Chicago dignitaries for the unveiling.
Yesterday, I talked to Kaylyn's dad about the street naming and what it means to him.
DE: It's so bittersweet to have a street named after your beautiful daughter for such a horrific reason. How did you feel as it happened on Saturday?
ANS: That exactly what it is. It's extremely bittersweet. I had this kind of numb feeling, but also pride, because she worked hard, and she deserves that recognition.
She had a ton of trophies, medals and stuff from high school running track, and the trophy from winning the modeling contest. And that street sign is just another trophy, is the way I look at it.
Just thinking about it, just looking at her name and knowing people who don't know don't know the story, they're going to wonder, 'who was this Kaylyn Pryor?' And all you have to do is Google her and there's a lot of things that pop up about her. Somebody that lived only 20 years, she was able to accomplish so much. And she was just on her way.
If you had just known her.
She was a fearless little girl, fearless when it came to what she wanted to do with her life, and just completely totally comfortable in her skin. And I admired that about her. She's didn't have a shy bone in her body. You know, just a complete go-getter. Really impressive and an extremely nice person. You know, everybody was her best friend.
DE: I've often driven past street names and wondered 'who was that person?' With Kaylyn, the street sign is about her legacy and her life, but also that it was gun violence that ended her life.
ANS: It's horrendous. Yes. And then on top of it, you know, I grew up right there on that block.
DE: That's where your parents, her grandparents, still live.
ANS: Yes. My parents live right there, and you know, we never had any problems when I was young. I had two brothers and two sisters. But then the neighborhood just kind of changed, and when I had the opportunity to buy a house, I said to myself, you know what, I'm just going to go somewhere where my daughters are not going to see what I saw growing up.
That was my reason for coming to Evanston.
I wasn't ever worried about anything happening to them like that, you know? I knew I would keep them away from that type of stuff. But they love their grandparents, so they'd go back and forth. We've been visiting for years and never had any problems. And Kaylyn was such an outgoing person. She knew everyone, she would talk to anybody. She was never conceited on any level.
Those glamorous pictures that I would see her in, the modeling ones -- I still see pictures that I've never seen before. But she never came home dressed up like that. She would come home with her Ugg boots on and jeans, and never even talk about it. She was just a humble girl, really humble. She would try to help people. She was just a caring person.
But like I say, that's the reason why I came to Evanston in the first place. And she gets killed on 7400 S. May. The same frickin' block I grew up on and left. Not just in the neighborhood, but the same block.
I never saw that coming. I couldn't believe it.
For over 50 years my parents have lived there. My dad is 87 and my mom 75.
DE: They've spent their whole life there and nothing's ever happened to them ... and then your 20 year old daughter goes to visit.
ANS: That's the first time anybody has ever gotten killed in my family like that. The last person that died closest to me was my grandmother, my mom's mom. And that was in 1986. That's the last time, let alone somebody gets murdered, killed. It shocked us so bad.
DE: I know you have a reward out still. The shooter has not been found yet.
ANS: Yes, it's a $30,000 reward. So far, we haven't heard anything.
DE: When I heard about the street naming, I thought of it as a memorial to Kaylyn, a celebration of her life. But I also see it as raising the issue of gun violence. Do you think it's about both?
ANS: I agree. You know, people think it's like she's a celebrity, having a street named after her -- but she was a celebrity to me. Honestly, I'd never get tired of talking about her. I just want the world to know about her. I really do.
I guess in going through this, it kind of makes you crazy. I had times where all I would do is put different pictures and videos of her up on Facebook, because one thing about me being blessed having a girl that was a model -- she took a lot of pictures. So I share them with the with the world. I want people to know and inquire about her. I just I just cannot let the world forget about her. I just can't do it. And even the street sign. That's wonderful. But I want more. I want the world to know about Kaylyn Nicole.
DE: Kaylyn was an innocent bystander who was shot. She was accomplished and beautiful. Do you think there's a difference when young people are shot and killed who may have be involved with particular groups, or drug dealing, or personal vendettas?
If streets in Evanston or Chicago where young people have been killed by gun violence were named after them, imagine how many streets would be named after people?
Do you think that could make a difference in reducing gun violence?
ANS: That's a that's a very good point. One thing about being in this 'club' that no one wants to be a part of, it's just that we've all lost a child to gun violence. No-one wants to be a part of that.
I'm lumped in with a lot of people that I probably would never associate with. It is all walks of life. But but we all identify big time with one singular thing. It is is freaking huge. No matter what our child was doing in life. We love our kids. We love our children. And we are freaking hurting and shocked from losing our child.
Our group is one category: we lost our children to gun violence.
I hate it. I hate the gun violence. I hate that in the news every day is somebody doing something stupid. Killing and shooting. Bigger body counts. You know, if they can just see how many people they've put in cemeteries. How can you feel good about that?
Because that's what it is. These street signs are just just headstones. My daughter's name is a headstone.
That's what it is.
When this first happened to me I was going to different groups, just trying to get some type of help, and people would say, 'That's the model's dad.' And I had just started hearing stories about some of the kids. You know, some of them were gangbangers, but I'd meet their parents and they'd be bawling just like me. And I would tell them, look, my daughter's not a model no more. I lost my child, just like you, and we both love our children. I want this stuff to stop, and we all can work together and we can somehow put a dent in it. You know, let's all try to find a way of doing that.
I never seen this coming. I miss that girl so much. She was always the loudest thing in the house and I really miss her. I just want her to be proud of me.
She may be deceased in the physical, but her spirit is alive and well. You know, it's strong. I feel it.
Missing from the emotional day on Saturday was Kaylyn's mom Royce Pryor, who passed away from a heart attack just 11 months after Kaylyn's death. In that short time, Royce became a passionate activist for sensible gun legislation, speaking all over the country despite the kidney disease that kept her needing dialysis.
On June 14, 2016, seven months after Kaylyn was shot and four months before she died, Royce wrote this Facebook post, which she then allowed me to share on Dear Evanston:
"My reality.....there is not a day that goes by not even an hour that my thoughts don't drift off to my beautiful Reindeer, my eyes that would not cry now fill with tears, my strong exterior is now weak. I walk in a tunnel where the light seems so close but yet so far. I think of what she would be doing now if her life had not been taken.
Some will say it gets better with time. For me a part of time stopped when one half of my heart beat was taken away. 20 yrs and 9 mths of love shattered in a matter of minutes and all I can do is look at pictures, videos and have thoughts of things long forgotten and what should still be. The human mind is amazing and the soul is my everlasting connection to my daughter Kaylyn. To be honest its a very thin line between sanity and insanity I guess Im on the borderline walking a tightrope trying to stay balanced...
My journey is long from over I can not bring my daughter back but I can and will continue to inspire and work in the fight against gun violence."