There was a time when Charlie Batch couldn't bring himself to drive down West Street in Pittsburgh's Homestead neighborhood because of the pain that welled up inside him every time he did.
West Street isn't unfamiliar territory mind you. West Street is home to Charlie Batch. It leads through his old neighborhood, to his mother's house and takes him by the football field where his road to the NFL began.
For the past 10 years, West Street has been home to Best of the Batch, the educational foundation of the Steelers' veteran quarterback. It's a place where kids go to learn at what they call The Charlie Batch School, where they can work at one of 26 computer stations and where they play basketball, protected from the danger on neighboring streets.
But located in the same area, Homestead Cemetery sits on 22nd Street, an intersection Charlie Batch must pass through when he travels to his mother's home from practice.
It's the plot of land where his sister has been buried for the past 16 years and a cemetery that for a time, he couldn't bring himself to pass by without all of the anger associated with his sister's murder resurfacing from the depths where Danyl Lynn Settles' memory was once buried deep inside Charlie Batch.
Perhaps it seems strange that one street could evoke so many emotions. But it's here on West Street where Charlie Batch's heart lies. It's here in Homestead, where Batch -- now preparing for his 14th NFL season -- works to keep families from experiencing the kind of pain that delivered a blindside hit like he's never felt before. It's a life-changing hit that came 16 years ago when the phone rang in Batch's college apartment 300 miles away.
The hit is long healed, but one that Charlie Batch still lives with every day of his life.
First there was dead silence on the other end of the call.
"Charlie," Lynn Settles told her son on that February night in 1996. "You've got to come home."
Batch -- then a junior at Eastern Michigan -- was willing to make the trip back to Pennsylvania if needed, but not without an explanation.
"Before I get on the road for five hours, you've got to tell me why I'm coming home," Batch told his mother.
Batch figured something was wrong, but the kind of wrong that was painful to hear, but not at all life-altering.
Then, he heard his mother swallow hard.
Batch braced himself for a dose of hard reality not expecting to hear what followed. Maybe, his mother had called to say that one of his older loved ones -- a grandmother, a grandfather -- had passed.
"I would never in a million years think she was going to tell me my sister had been shot and killed," Batch said.
Danyl was only a month past her 17th birthday. According to reports, Settles -- then a junior at Steel Valley High School -- was shot while walking down an alley between West and Amity streets with her boyfriend.
In a coroner's hearing, John "Fitty" Payne testified that he and Danyl were distracted by a noise by a fence. They stopped, looked and saw two men wearing hoods.
Payne said he didn't see the faces of the men, but recognized the voice of one of the assailants.Full Story >>