Monday, August 25, 2014

The Day Death Passed Me By

Let me begin by saying the event mentioned in the post is true and happened recently to me.

The day started like any other, never giving any hints as to what would unfold.  I had a series of errands to run and things to do.  So off I went on my merry way, first stop was to return a recent purchase.  From there it was off to the card shop to pick up a birthday card.  Now, I must admit I spent far more time at  the card shop than I intended.  Those who know me well will tell you I can spend literally an hour or more in a card shop looking for the perfect card.  From the card shop I headed out to do a little shopping; I wasn't looking for anything in particular, I was just looking around to see what was available and if there were any good sales on.  After visiting a few stores, I happened across a sale rack and found, much to my delight, a pair of $90 jeans on sale for $14.95.  I tried them on, they fit and I happily purchased them and headed home.  Pretty much an ordinary day.

I had been home a while when I realized I had to run over to my brother's place.  He lives about a 10 minute drive from me, so I gave him a call and told him I was just dropping by to drop off a few things.  He said to me "Why don't you wait until later?"  I really didn't want to wait as I still had dinner to make and laundry to do.  So I told him I was on my way.

I was 4 blocks away from my brother's place when it happened.  I stopped at a red light, looked down to change radio stations and when I looked up again, I was staring at a man standing in front of my car, pointing a gun at me. I was stunned. My mind reeled. Where did he come from?  Was I about to be car-jacked?  Was I going to live to see tomorrow?  I didn't move, he looked around somewhat wildly, moved towards the car in front of me and fired at that car several times. In my mind I kept saying this can't be happening; it's broad daylight, there are so many people around, how can this be?  I watched in horror as the car before me somehow veered to the right, the back window shattering.  Moments later the passenger door opened and the passenger half fell from the car.  In those moments of stunned disbelief I had lost slight of the shooter. 

Where did he go?  Is he still here somewhere?  Are there others?  I was torn between running to help those in the car and the absolute terror of being shot in the process of trying to help.  Moments later a large truck pulled up beside the car and a couple of guys jumped out to help.  I blessed them for having the courage to do what I couldn't; I knew I should have stayed to speak to police but shock and fear propelled me to drive to safety.

Now, I cannot help but think of those have chosen careers in which they deal with this type of violence and other dangers day in and day out.  The police, the EMS workers, firefighters, and military personnel.  While some may say "they chose their career" the reality is, where would the rest of us be without them? They rush in where angels fear to tread, not for their loved ones, but for total strangers.  How often do they feel Death has passed by them?

While emotionally I wanted to rush in to help, I was too terrified to do so and instead left.  I did go into the police station later that night and was interviewed and gave a formal statement, my mind still reeling from the incident and the knowledge that at least one of the two people in the car had been killed.     I told the detectives I had panicked and left the scene. Their response was kind, understanding and supportive, telling me that it was OK and that it was enough that I came in to talk to them.  One even said that given the circumstances they would have done the same.  I highly doubt it and know it was said to ease my mind and any sense of guilt I had over leaving.

Now I am dealing with the stress of witnessing this horrific act of violence. I am fortunate that my training has given me tools, resources and connections in which to help me through this. I know how incredibly blessed I am to be alive. An ordinary, routine day, shattered beyond recognition, all in a matter of a couple of minutes. In the time it took for the traffic light to change from red to green, Death had come and gone; and had passed me by.

I am not sharing this story for the drama or for an outpouring of support or sympathy.  I am sharing it because so often we go through our day without any giving thought to the fact that in an instant, our life or the life of a loved one could end.  In those moments where I was looking down the barrel of a gun at a masked man, wondering if I was going to live to see family and friends again, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I wondered if they truly knew how much I loved them and I realized that even though they may know, I never said "I love you" often enough to any of them.

My point is this.  All the drama, the inconsequential hurts that we blow completely out of proportion, the misunderstandings, the grudges, the feuds, and the stupid reasons why "we're not talking to whoever"  need to be healed, released, forgiven; now, right now. Speak from your heart and speak often, because at any moment, on any day, in the most routine of circumstances, Death could come for you or them.