Friday was a special day. My husband was taking a half day for work to spend the morning with the kids and I as we were going to ride the infamous, Thomas Train! We bought tickets to the special event as a gift for our son’s 5th Birthday. Since we had about an hours drive to make our train ride, we had a hectic morning trying to get the kids fed, dressed and everything packed (our lunch, water bottles, snacks, camera, etc). While making breakfast I stood at the kitchen window, which looks out at the street, and noticed a truck parked in the turn lane. Not too out of the ordinary for our neighborhood, but just something I noticed and wondered about for a moment.
Hurry, hurry, hurry out the door we scurried until we pulled to the end of the driveway and saw rows of parked, empty vehicles blocking our driveway. As I scanned the street, I got an eerie feeling, and wondered aloud if we’d missed the rapture. I was half trying to be funny and half seriously worried. As I spoke, my head panned down the street to see my answer: Cops stood at the corner, two SWAT vehicles blocked the intersection. The idea of missing our long awaited special Birthday Thomas Train ride hit me, and I got out of the car and asked a Cop what was up. He said that the vehicles blocking us were staged for a gun situation, which they’d hoped would be resolved soon. Sorry, but if we couldn’t get through the parking mess, we’d just have to wait.
I racked my brain after telling my husband the scoop: how could we get out? Just then, our neighbor came out and said that his wife had made it through in her car. He guided my husband through and down the road we went, passing news cameras and police vehicles blocking the intersection away from the situation. I was so thankful for our “angel” neighbor, and suddenly felt tears streaming down my face. I was unable to understand why waves of emotion crashed down on me. When my husband asked what was wrong, I had to just breathe and think, asking myself the same question. I got a text from my neighbor down the street, “Are you okay? Stay inside until it’s safe.” More tears streamed down my face.
When I was 6 years old, my single mother was unexpectedly interrupted during a normal morning at home. A loud banging on the door was unexpected. A vested man holding a gun said quickly, “Stay inside, we’re apprehending a suspect running through your backyard.” She sternly said to my little brother and I that we had to sit down in the living room away from the windows. I remember feeling fear. And confusion. She let us peek out our back kitchen window. Our yard rose up a hillside into a greenbelt overrun with blackberries, trees and ivy. We saw men in black with assault rifles drawn chasing a man half dressed as he scrambled through. A shot or two was fired, triggering a very deep sense of fear inside my little heart. I did not feel safe at home.
Once the incident was over, I told my mom that I wanted to go to my Uncle Michael’s house. I wanted to sleep there. When she asked me why, I told her he could keep us safe. So, we went and visited my aunt and uncle’s house. They let us sleep over.
What triggered my tears Friday was the disappointment I felt of not being able to shield my kids from ever experiencing a SWAT team situation. Unlike my experience, the kids didn’t have to sit in the living room away from the windows. They didn’t see or hear guns. All they knew is that we were probably going to arrive late to ride Thomas, and Mommy was upset. I never wanted to live in a place where they would ever feel unsafe. And they don’t. Their day was filled with memories of trains.
We’ve learned that the cause of the situation was domestic violence. While many neighbors complain about this neighborhood being the problem, they fail to see each incident as separate (compared to tagging, vandalism, robbery). Domestic Violence happens in every kind of social level across the world. It happens behind white picket fences, in pretty homes with perfect lawns. It happens in apartments, in neighborhoods like ours where low income housing is dispersed among single family homes. It’s a growing problem among younger couples, like the one in our neighborhood. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that it fuels my desire to keep volunteering in my neighborhood. To be active and not another anonymous commenter who vents about the problems around here and why they moved away. Moving away from the problems don’t solve them.
I don’t think that violent crimes like Domestic Violence are easily solved. But, they can only be solved if we start to try. To talk about it is a start.
Thinking back to my emotions on Friday, I am grateful for the positive distraction of a fun filled adventure with Trains and my family. But, I will not easily forget the reason why we almost missed out and stayed home, waiting.