A 3-year-old and his mother waiting for a bus. A 2-year-old watching television with his mother at a friend's house. A 9-year-old playing in her front yard.

In the past month, these Oakland children were shot while they were doing the most routine, everyday activities.

In the years that Oakland has been besieged by gun violence, words such as "senseless," "horrific," "cowardly," and "unimaginable" have been used up. What is there to say about a 3-year-old being shot at a bus stop?

What words do parents have to calm the fears that will haunt a child after such an experience? They survived the shootings but they have been robbed of their precious innocence. Leaving the house, walking down the street are perilous endeavors.

A memorial for Emiliano Zapata Street Academy student Samantha Alvarado, 15, is seen during a press conference on 83rd Avenue and A Street in East Oakland,
A memorial for Emiliano Zapata Street Academy student Samantha Alvarado, 15, is seen during a press conference on 83rd Avenue and A Street in East Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

What words explain how people can open fire, spraying bullets along a street or into houses without a thought about hitting an innocent bystander? A child. Don't they have any children in their lives, sons, daughters, sisters, cousins? How does a person arrive at that level of callousness?

As I said, the words of outrage and hurt have been used up. When I heard police Chief Sean Whent and Mayor Jean Quan commenting after the toddlers were shot, I wondered how many times we've heard the shocked, angry words of city leaders.

We heard them last year when 16-month old Drew Jackson was killed along with his 20-year-old father when someone shot into the bedroom where they were sleeping. They were in town to attend the funeral of a relative shot and killed the previous week.

In 2011, when Gabriel Martinez, 5, was shot and killed while he followed his father who was taking out the trash from his taco truck. When Hiram Lawrence Jr., 23 months, was shot and killed when he was with his father. Three men fired into a crowd in a parking lot. The baby was in a coma for 11 days before his family took him off life support.

And a few months earlier that year, when Carlos Nava, 3, was shot and killed while his mother pushed him in a stroller during a two-block walk from their home to a convenience store. Two men in a car opened fire on the street and a stray bullet hit him in the neck.

Where is a child safe when he or she can be shot while walking with a father or being pushed in a stroller by a mother?

Ironically, the recent shootings of children happened when homicides, assaults with a firearm and most other violent crimes are down. According to Oakland Police Department crime statistics, violent crime is down 15 percent from this time last year. And last year saw a 28- percent decrease in homicides and a 16- percent decrease in assaults with a firearm from the previous year, 2012.

Those statistics must seem unreal to the areas in West and East Oakland where the majority of shootings occur. Maps of the neighborhoods are covered in dots indicating gunshots either called in to the dispatcher or detected by ShotSpotter. In Area 5 in East Oakland, there were 151 shooting incidents in May. That's almost five a day.

That sounds more like a war zone than a neighborhood, and that analogy has been made so many times it too has been used up.

Living with an ongoing barrage of gunfire, residents have to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and yet most do not receive counseling or treatment. Growing up, children think frequent gunfire is normal, like the jingle of an ice cream truck. Most of the families who have lost relatives to violence don't receive grief counseling. I hope the three children recently wounded by gunfire receive counseling to help them overcome the trauma they've experienced.

It's the enduring dual reality of Oakland. The Uptown area continues to thrive, the number of new restaurants and bars is ever expanding, Oakland is the hip, vibrant place to be, and yet children in some city neighborhoods have to worry about being wounded by a stray bullet while they play in their front yard.

This duality is particularly relevant to me as I take on a new project as coordinator for Oakland Voices, a community storytelling project based in East Oakland. Ten community correspondents will cover their neighborhoods for the next nine months. In the interviews, the candidates talked about how the media portray only the negative stories about East Oakland, missing the stories about neighbors coming together and young people working to improve their schools and neighborhoods.

As East Oakland residents, they are well aware of the reality of daily gunfire. It's not that the negative stories aren't real. Oakland Voices will take another approach, including looking at some of the causes of violence, such as poverty and chronic underemployment, to offer a more balanced view of life in East Oakland.

I hope there won't be stories about children getting shot -- about senseless, cowardly, unimaginable acts of violence. I'm afraid there probably will be.

Contact Brenda Payton at bpayton77@gmail.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bpayton77