Friday, August 15, 2008

A very scary night

Wednesday was a good day. We had several things happen that would have been good subjects for this blog. It was a good day. Then, after dinner Alex, Kate and Millie decided to walk up to the store on the corner to get a snack. They didn’t know if it was still open, but they thought it might be. And it’s only a hundred feet or so from our house, just south down the street, so it’s not like it would be a big deal if it were closed.

They left the house at 7:45. The sun was already gone, it gets dark early here. I was on the porch with Tori and Janet, each of us enjoying our favorite bad habit. (We were having a cigarette.) As I stood there I happened to notice a bike go past fast, heading north. I had an impression of a bike, and a white T-shirt. Then the phone rang.

It was Millie on her cell phone. Her voice sounded tiny as she said, “Someone stole my purse,”

“What?” She repeated it, and I was already heading south down the street, walking fast. Tori started to cfollow, then thinking more clearly then I did, went back for the car.

I got there and the store was closed, Alex and Kate were standing on either side of Millie with their arms around her, and she was shook up.

Alex filled me in. Some kid, not older than they are, had pedalled up on a bike, pulled a gun on them and said “Give me your fucking money.” They froze, mostly unbelieving. He repeated himself, then grabbed Millie’s purse, pulling it off her shoulder, and rode off. Right up our street. The kid in the white T-shirt I had just seen.

I called 911. Ironically, one of the reasons we had liked the neighborhood is because the police station is just two blocks away. I finished with the call and the operator said she’d send someone. At that moment Tori pulled up and got the kids in the car. Got me in the car. I told her the police were coming and we should wait. It seemed like it took hours, maybe days for them to arrive, but they were there within five minutes. Corporal Cornelius got a quick description from the girls and two other cars took off to see if they could find anything. I wasn’t surprised that they couldn’t.

We were there with the police about 45 minutes giving them the story. Then the investigator arrived and asked them to come back to the station with him for a complete statement. I came home, because we’d left Janet with Max and a very incomplete story.

If they choose to write about it, you’ll get a lot more detail from them. I heard the story three times, once from each of them, and I’m still hazy on the details. It’s kinda hard to focus on words when you’re dealing with something like that.

Why did I let them go to the store? I had heard about not walking around after dark. Why didn’t I at least go with them? I know, I know. It wasn’t my fault. Not their fault. It was the fault of some kid, not more than 16 or 17, who could think of nothing but to do that ride around with a gun and jack around with some girls. But that doesn’t make it any easier in retrospect.

So what do I tell my daughters? Especially Millie, who hasn’t been happy here yet and who just stared down the barrel of a gun wielded by a kid not much older than her, and probably just as scared.

They did exactly the right thing. They weren’t alone, they had each other, but that wasn’t enough. They didn’t argue. They didn’t fight. Millie gave him her purse. She lost about twenty two bucks, some sunglasses, her wallet and maybe some makeup. A VERY small price to pay. A terrible lesson learned. Yes, that could have happened anywhere, probably did happen simultaneously elsewhere in the world. I worked on the paper in Albany 13 years and I know that kind of stuff happened all over there, too. The fact that it never happened to my family doesn’t change the fact that it happens a lot there.

But all of that requires a bit more perspective than I’m able to muster right now, and even if I could say that, I wouldn’t. Because it didn’t happen there. It happened here. It happened to my girls. We’d been having a good day, and then this. And I’m really pissed.


Pat Kight said...

This really drives home the fact that you're not just living in paradise - you're living in a different place, with a different culture and different rules of engagement. It still sucks that the kids had to learn that lesson.

John said...

I just watched Phelps win his seventh, and I was about to write to you because I was reminiscing to a friend about where we were when Spitz won his seven. Just three points:

1) we were about their age, and we were gone for a week in Yosemite
2) the first thing we saw when we got back was the headline about the slaughter of the athletes in Munich
3) fuck perspective and context - people mess with our daughters and rage is the response.

I'm glad nobody was actually physically hurt. Take care of all y'all now.

Jennifer said...

I've read about this kind of crime on the travel forums and a lot of people said it's particularly bad on the west side of STX. I'm so sorry it happened to your girls. Please be careful and don't let it get you down.

Jack Baur said...

Not to be snide -- I realize that this is traumatic -- but I've already heard the story from dad and so the emotional impact is somewhat blunted. I just have to ask: was the cop's name really Corporal Cornelius? Because that's kind of awesome.

Hope all is well.