Wednesday, February 3, 2016


This afternoon reminds me of another bright, blue February day, years ago.  I knew gunshots.  We lived on the fringe of the fringe of a big gang neighborhood.  Of course, it was not this way when we moved in.  But gangs were turning whole neighborhoods upside down.  We were just lucky to be far enough away.  And in a few years, we would be fortunate to be able to move.  But on the weekends we could lay in bed and hear gunfire in the distance or the occasional drive by of rapid shots fired from speeding cars.  Then the parade of ambulances on the major thoroughfare.  But not on our block.  Not quite in our neighborhood until that February afternoon.

Certainly not five houses to the north and just around the corner.  One by one, neighbors came out of their homes, gathering in the yard next door.  We didn’t know just how close.  A few minutes passed, and five houses to the north they appeared:  three uniformed police officers with their weapons drawn, going around that first house on the corner cautiously, checking bushes, then coming down the street three abreast, just like a movie.  We all ran home.  My heart pounded as I stood behind the locked front door and watched as the policemen went in and out of every yard looking.  I tried to hide my absolute fear from five year old Cate as I sent an SOS to my mother and Burt.  By the time he made it home, an army of marked and unmarked cars had seized the streets as police officers and dogs walked the alley behind my house.  An unmarked car idled in the intersection two houses down.  My usually quiet neighborhood of retired original homeowners and first-time owners led the five and six o’clock news, yet not even the super-charged “live at the scene” reporters standing in the intersection where it all began knew that the end of the story was hiding in an attic three houses away, hearing the police cars, the curious neighbors and the engines of the satellite news trucks.

I took Cate to dance but she couldn’t dance through her tears.  I thought about what it must be like for a child to grow up in constant fear.  Supper was fixed and eaten.  Rumors had circulated all afternoon.  The paroled felon was armed and dangerous.  A policeman told my husband they would get the suspect, one way or the other.  He was most probably not in the neighborhood.  He would try to run, once it got dark.  About 8 p.m. I went to bed for a short nap.  My midnight oil would burn until dawn, if necessary.  Minutes later, I heard two gunshots. It ended, just a block from where it began.

I heard all four shots fired that day.  The first two injured the muzzle of the police dog and a policeman’s finger.  My sense of security was shaken but would heal.  The last two shots haunt my memory.  They would prove to be fatal.

Yesterday morning, I came out to my car and it had been ransacked.  I'm sure the person was very disappointed that there was no money hidden in any cubby hole or under the mat.  I didn't feel as violated as I thought I would.  My initial reaction was relief that the car had not been damaged.  Maybe my sense of security,  But then I remembered Sunday.  My little brush with crime was nothing when compared to the horrific day.

Three people had been shot and murdered in twelve hours.  A 27 year old mother was shot in her front yard on a bright, blue Sunday morning standing next to her 2 year old child.  The whole community has been shocked by this.  She didn't live in my neighborhood or my part of town.  But her home was in a relatively quiet family neighborhood, during the daylight.  Or so it was thought to be.  Two teenage boys are being held without bond.    

People say it and people write it.  When will this end?  We are in the same neighborhood.  The same city and state.  There is no explanation except there is evil in this world.  It shouldn't be a privilege of fortune that makes my front yard safe and another questionable.  A wise young person recently talked to me about risk and fear after the Paris terrorists attack.  The odds are in my favor.  A life must be lived without fear.  And if something happens, it happens.  But there is no controlling the situation or the things we encounter in life.  As odd as it seems, I'm in more danger standing in the front yard twenty years ago or three days ago.  What has changed?  Nothing.  What we have to fear is not over there, migrating here.   But we can't let fear gulp us up.  I'm preaching to myself.  I wish I had answers.

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