Hidden America: Chicago's Gang War Put Children in Crossfire

Young gang members carry automatic weapons, and the death toll of innocent bystanders is climbing.
3:00 | 10/18/12

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Transcript for Hidden America: Chicago's Gang War Put Children in Crossfire
On the streets of chicago, gang violence has taken over 400 lives this year alone. Making it, quite literally, a battleground in the heart of the united states. Victims have included children as young as 6 years old. It's a hidden america most of us will never see. Abc's alex perez, who himself grew up in one of these dangerous neighborhoods, brings us the first in a series of reports we're calling, from chicago, "hidden america: Don't shoot, I want to grow up." Where is that coming from? Reporter: Thursday night in chicago. Mothers on the south and west sides of this city are bracing. For them, weekends mean violence. Murder. And sleepless nights. Praying that their children will live to bury them, not the other way around. It's a prayer diana knows well. She lives in a chicago neighborhood called little village, the same home where she grew up. But the fond memories she had here were erased on a warm, saturday afternoon last march. It was a beautiful day. We were going to go to a bit day party. We were actually waiting for our cousins to join us. Reporter: While she waited, she, her boyfriend, 2-year-old daughter kate lip and 6-year-old daughter alliyah decided to sit on the front porch. Chef was helping alliyah tame her frizzy hair. I was sitting right here. Kaitlyn, armando and alliyah was between my legs. She had beautiful, curly hair that when it was hot, it would get real nappy. So, I was running my fingers through her hair. Reporter: As she untangled alliyah's hair, a pickup truck came barrelling down the street and that bright, sunny day became the darkest afternoon in diana's life. I just heard, you know, tsk, boom! Reporter: A gang war cry and gun fire. I honestly didn't think -- i just -- I didn't -- I guess it happened so fast, by the time i looked up, I just seen the truck, the guy, pointing at us. Reporter: In those few seconds, alliyah, still sitting between her mother's legs, went silent. I seen blood on her arm, and I was screaming for help. And I got up and I see kaitlyn on the ground, screaming and i let go of alliyah, but I promise you that I thought she just got shot in her arm. I ran inside to call 911 and as I hoped the door I seen her rolling down -- and blood on her arm but by the time I got down, she was purple and she had other wounds. And I didn't get to hear her voice ever again. Ever. Maybe I should hgot up, maybe I should have done something else and I ask myself that every night. But I -- it's into too late. And I ask myself why? Reporter: Alliyah was killed in a neighborhood just a few blocks from here, where I grew up. Her story reminds me of my experience. As a teenager, three of my friends were killed in gang shootings. But the violence today is even nor fright pg and unpredictable. Police are fighting back. Police superintendent gary McCARTHY SHOWED ME THE ARSENAL They have seized this year alone. More than 10,000 illegal guns. Is there one solution, one key to fix our problem? No. There's no way to just stop the flow of firearms into this city. There's no way to reinvent the family structure that doesn't exist, so that you don't have 13-year-olds on the street at 1:00 in the morning engaged in a gun battle. Reporter: And so, across this city, grieving mothers like diana are taking on this massive arsenal, telling the stories of their slain children to anyone who will listen, over and over. The only weapon they have. Yeah, they was right on the school ground. Reporter: The night we met tania, she was handing out flyers, asking people who have seen homicides to break the code of silence. I call it the code of coward. Reporter: Tania's 19-year-old son was shot at a party three years ago. But like 70% of home side cases in this city, his case remains unsolved. So much danger in this neighborhood. It was just ridiculous. Reporter: This woman thought she'd cowith a way of protecting her children. I say, okay, we stop at the candy store, at least they can come outside in front of the house, I can watch them, they'll be safe right here. Reporter: The candy store would help pay for a trip to disney world for her 7-year-old daughter. A reward for an excellent report card. She picked up her pink shorts and her pink shoes. And all her stuff that she wanted to wear to disney world. ♪ Reporter: But the little diva, who loved singing about hope, never made it to disney world. Caught in gang cross fire at that candy store outside her home. Just three weeks before the trip. I ran to the door, I saw her face down, bleeding. She took her last breath in my arms. Reporter: Even at just 7, heaven knew the changers of the neighborhood and wanted out. She's like, ma, let's move. It's not right over here. How do they live like this? She's 7 years old. She was before her time. Reporter: Time is what seems frozen for die yap tandiana. She tripes not to spend the weekends at home. She stays with her sister in a different neighborhood. When she's at home, she's in her bedroom, which has become a shine to alliyah. This is my alliyah. This is what I have of her. Reporter: The walls, pink and purple, alliyah's favorite colors. And pictures everywhere. Once thing that I really wanted to show you, and everybody out there in the world, is that this is my baby. 6 years old. Loved cool, loved life. Amazing little girl. This -- this is what they took away from me, and this is what, unfortunately, I am forced to see now. We need to do something. We need to stop this. We need to show these kids that there's options out there, you know? That there's other options besides joining the gangs. There's other -- you have a family, a real family that loves, that wants the best for you, that wants a future for you. Reporter: For "nightline" unt, I'm alex perez in chicago. Heartbreaking. Our thanks to alex perez for bringing us that story. Tomorrow night on "world news" and a special edition of "nightline," we're going to show you what happened when we brought together members of rival gangs for an unprecedented summit. Prey or the predator. Which one you going to be? And then, what happened when the grieving mothers w melt directly confronted them.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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