Thursday, June 08, 2006

‘Emergency 9-1-1. Do you have an emergency to report?’

Oh dear. We’ve had quite a hullabaloo tonight. Very nasty.

I was sitting at my computer adding recently acquired book purchases to my little personal library database - something I do much too often. The window - looking over the rear parking lot - was wide open beckoning a marvelous cold breeze - very nipply but welcome after the recent heat-wave.

Unfortunately the window also beckoned the voices of the teenagers loitering in our parking lot - a constant presence. Our little 8-unit complex is a magnet for teenagers. I can’t imagine why.

I hear their voices rise. There is some kind of agitation among them. A serious argument perhaps.

And then I hear a deafening bang. A crack that splinters the night and echoes off nearby buildings. I stiffen in my chair, horrified and look toward the window. ‘Could that have been anything other than a gun?’ It was certainly not a backfiring car. The lights are bright in the room. I see only blackness through the window screen.

I hear a young man shouting. I hear fast footsteps of someone running away. I hear a female in obvious distress speaking semi-hysterically.

“Someone call an ambulance!” a young man shouts - panic in his voice.

I slip away from my chair, thoroughly - oh so thoroughly - alarmed. I back away from the window and pace the hallway for a moment, trying to conceive of an alternate explanation for what I just heard. Something other than a shooting. Nothing comes to me. I grab my cell phone and dial 9-1-1.

“Emergency 9-1-1. Do you have an emergency to report?” says the operator, efficiently, proffesionally.

“I believe someone was just shot in the parking lot of my building - with a gun,”

“What’s the address?”

I tell her.

“What’s your name?”

I tell her. I spell it for her, wondering if someone will die this night on account of my name being so long.

“Did you see this happen?”

“No. I didn’t see anything. I only heard it.” I describe everything I’d heard through the window.

“You didn’t look out the window? You didn’t see a victim?”

“No,” I say. “I tend not to stick my head out the window when there’s guns going off. It’s kind of a superstition in my family.” I don’t mean to be snarky with her. Really. It’s just a nervous reaction.

“Okay sir,” she says with strained patience. “I understand. I’ve put the call out for police and an ambulance. Are you able to watch out for them? To be sure they come to the correct place?”

“Yes. I can do that. In fact - I’ll take a look out the window now.”

“The police will want to speak with you.”

Great, I think. I'll put coffee on.

I kill the light switch and then I turn off the computer monitor. In a veil of darkness I peer out the window.

“Oh,” I say.

“What do you see?”

“About five people. Um. They’re playing with fireworks! I guess there wasn’t a gun after all!” Now I feel stupid.

“Is someone injured?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see well enough. But I imagine so. I stand by my earlier comments. Someone shouted about an ambulance.”

It’s common knowledge that kids these days have turned fireworks into a sport much like laser tag or paintball.

Shortly, two cruisers arrive and an ambulance. They drive right by the van that contains the fleeing teenagers. They see it leaving the parking lot that is there destination but they don’t stop it. I guess that’s not there way.


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