It is a nightmare unimaginable to most parents – a type of war currently raging in one of America's proudest cities, where it's possible for a seven-year-old girl to be gunned down while selling lemonade. The place is Chicago and the war is among young men and women who themselves say they exist in a kill-or-be-killed reality that's unfathomable to most of the country.
In an unprecedented series of special reports, ABC News will take a closer look at the violence plaguing America's third-largest city. ABC's Diane Sawyer and Chicago-based correspondent Alex Perez facilitate a solutions-based discussion between members of several rival gangs to see what, if anything, can be done to reverse the alarming pattern of violence and murder in the streets. Former NBA all-star Isiah Thomas joins the conversation, challenging the youth of his hometown to find a peaceful resolution. In addition, ABC News goes inside an event deemed the "PEACE Basketball Tournament," where for one day members of rival gangs were brought together by their common love for the game to battle it out on the court rather than in the city's streets. Local social activist Father Michael Pfleger organized the event and was joined there by several NBA players hoping to send a message to the community's youth to stop the violence. The reports air THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18 and FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19 on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline." On Friday night a special edition of "Nightline" will be dedicated to these reports.
The statistics are staggering – the FBI is reporting there are 1.4 million active gang members in the United States, with a 40 percent increase in gang related activity from 2009 to 2011. This year alone there have been more than 400 people killed in Chicago; there have been more lives lost there than there have been soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
"Diane Sawyer and her 'Hidden America' team have done it again — shining a new light on stories of violence, struggle and hope in Chicago, while searching for answers to one of the most vexing problems facing our country," ABC News President Ben Sherwood said.
"The team has devoted months to researching, interviewing and filming for this series of stories, and they are told with Diane's signature brand of tough reporting and finely tuned sensitivity. We were overwhelmed by the reception we got in the Chicago community, and our hope is that this will be the beginning -- not the end -- of an important conversation in communities across the country," said "Nightline" Executive Producer Jeanmarie Condon.
"ABC World News with Diane Sawyer" airs at 6:30 p.m., ET on the ABC Television Network and airs locally in Chicago on WLS-TV at 5:30 p.m., CT. "Nightline" airs at 11:35 p.m., ET on the ABC Television Network and locally in Chicago on WLS-TV at 10:35 p.m., CT.