Shattered silence

The peace in my ultra-quiet ultra-safe neighborhood was recently “lined” with three gunshots and a whole lot of questions.

A few Sundays ago around 10:30pm, we were kept awake by a police helicopter that just would not go away. Living so close downtown means that we get the occasional police activity while they were looking for a suspect. I, of course assumed this was business as usual and dismissed the howling blade as someone else’s problem. Shortly after, I was notified that there were police officers outside our complex with guns drawn…Our immediate response was to run to the window to see what was going on. Sure enough, we spotted the police who then started shining a flashlight up our window- we instantly ducked! This was completely out of place for our neighborhood, so we didn't think much of it. An ambulance came up shortly after prompting us to think that a neighbor had some kind of medical emergency. We didn’t even flinch when the police stopped by to ask if we’d seen or heard anything suspicious. The officer instantly put on his  "black speak", joking and laughing with us. He told us that detectives would be coming by to complete their investigations; that was when we noticed the whole complex had been roped off with crime scene tape. But as far as we were concerned, it was all something minor. The police officer also let us  know that it would take only a few hours to complete the investigations and they will let us know when we could leave. No problem for us. We went to sleep blissfully ignorant.  
Our lockdown continued into the next morning; I went outside to see how it was all going and was informed it would be a few hours before we would be able to leave. We settled into our morning and didn't think much of anything. I had googled our city a few times to see if any news had been updated, but seeing nothing, we continued to believe there had been a minor infraction. Nothing at all to worry about.   After a few hours I stepped out to check for the police or their crime scene tape and as suddenly as it had started all was clear and peaceful around the complex. I went on my merry way to work, just thinking of how bizarre it had all been.  

Shortly after I got to work, reality hit: I received a text from home saying a news channel had stopped by and wanted to know if we knew the victim…I’m sorry, the who? Victim? In our neighborhood? What in the world are they talking about. I started frantically searching the internet to see what had really happened and discovered a murder had been committed right next door!  According to the news, our neighbor was gunned down in his garage. The suspects who were seen leaving the scene had been caught, their discarded weapon retrieved.   We were a part of an episode of Law and Order and didn’t even know it.
The next few hours left me feeling all sorts of emotions, from relief to indignance and many more in between. Above all those emotions however was disbelief. How could something like this happen in my immediate world? When I returned later in the evening from work, a very eerie feeling had settled through the neighborhood, though my neighbors seemed to have returned to their normal world. It was as if nothing had happened and even though it was reassuring to see everything settled down, it also felt so wrong to just go back to normal after a family had suffered such a loss.

Following this harrowing incident, I became very aware of my vulnerability and my mortality. It is not uncommon for any of us to be outside the apartment around that time of the evening...what if any of us had been out there. Many other "what if" situations popped into my head and threatened to keep me awake at night. On the evening following the incident, as I was driving home, I completely panicked when a car pulled alongside mine thinking someone was about to pull a gun. I also spent time really looking around the complex before proceeding into the garage.
Over the next few months, I went through various activities aimed at making myself feel safe again in my environment. I found my home to be eerie and unsettling. I also realized that not really knowing what happened made me wonder if there were other targets in the neighborhood. Maybe my excessive watching of crime shows raised my paranoia level wayyyyyyy up. I had to engage  all the stress relieving activities to calm myself down on a daily basis and with time starting accepting the reality of my new now tarnished world.
I have since realized that there is no such thing as a safe neighborhood. I cannot take for granted that life happens and though I cannot prepare for everything that happens in my life, I can be vigilant in my daily actions. During those times when I felt completely exposed and vulnerable, I remembered to rely on my faith in God to get me through, and I learned a few safety tips.

A few safety tips:

- Always be aware of your surroundings; pay attention as you walk or drive; avoid distractions such as playing on your phone, texting etc.
- The elbow is the strongest point on your body, if you're close enough to use it, do so. If you're not close enough to use it, run.
-When walking down a street, make eye contact with people you encounter; it shows awareness and confidence
-Avoid carrying excessive bags on your person.
- If you're being robbed, through object away from your being and run, do not just hand it over.
- Once you get into your car after a day of shopping etc, do not sit in your car  to complete your checklist or send out text messages. Lock your car and leave.
-When getting into your car in a parking lot/garage, make note of your surroundings before getting into your car. If you feel uneasy, find someone to walk you to your car.
-Get to know your neighbors and those around you, it'll be easier to spot someone out of place.
-Take a self-defense class, and stay active.
It is now business as usual: the remaining members of the affected family moved out, having been told they were likely targeted and followed. Children are back to playing around the complex again, folks are living as if nothing happened. I can't forget that someone lost their life so close to our head, but, life must go on.
Stay safe everyone,
Half-stepping diva