The wind is blowing. The news is threatening us with snow flurries. Nothing major. Most likely I will see no evidence as it is not expected to accumulate over night. I'm huddled in my living room wishing I were in bed asleep. I tried to be. But sleep isn't coming easily to me lately.
Last week, Wednesday night, or really Thursday morning, I was sleeping as peacefully as I ever have. I live in a trailer. (Yes, yes, I know all the trailer trash jokes, and no longer cringe when I hear them.) It's a temporary abode. I will be gone from here in six more months. But for now, it is affordable as I finish up at a local community college before transferring to my home state's pride and joy. My significant other has moved ahead of me so as to make the move as easy a transition as it can be. So, I am here. Alone.
I awoke to what I thought was an earthquake. We've felt a few here in recent years. Small ones. Just enough to register in your head that its an earthquake, but not severe enough to drop to your knees in prayer. This one was different. It was jolting. With it was a distant booming sound that I couldn't quite identify. I sat up as I tried to get my bearings, still groggy and confused. It wasn't until I made my way halfway down the hall that I realized the booming sound was someone throwing themselves against my front door. It wasn't until then that I understood the jolting of the trailer was from the force. And I could hear a man yelling.
I instantly panicked.
My first thought was something had happened to my mother, and my stepfather in his grief was beside himself as he wailed and pummeled my door trying to wake me. They live a couple of spaces down from me, so it just made sense. I moved more quickly towards the living room, then suddenly realized it was not the voice of my stepfather. It was not a voice I recognized, and the concern for my mother suddenly turned into fear for myself.
My second thought, once I realized what was happening, was, "Great! I'm going to die before I get my degree!"
And the absurdity of the second thought gave way to the third, "If this guy succeeds, there is nothing I can do. I really might not survive this..."
It's difficult to be rational when nothing around you is in your control. So, irrationally, I immediately called my parents home. I guess when you don't know what you're facing, you seek comfort. By the second ring, my mind started clicking and I realized this was a futile route. I hung up before they could answer and called 911.
I stumbled through the words as I explained my emergency. "Someone is trying to break down my door. Where do I live? I live... I'm at... He's screaming. He's ramming my door and he's screaming to let him in. No, I don't know who he is! Please, please help me. I don't know what to do..."
The operator told me to stay on the line until the sheriff arrived. I hid in my bedroom behind a door that doesn't lock. Call waiting signaled someone was trying to reach me, and I knew it was my stepdad. It was then that I heard the first gunshot.
"Oh my God! I just heard... I think I heard gunfire! Please hurry! He's still beating my door."
I heard the operator radio that a gunshot had been heard, and not long after, a second caller confirmed there was gunfire. I got down low to the ground, and started telling the operator, "I have to call my parents back. I have to hang up. I'm afraid my dad is going to come check on me and get shot."
By the time I heard the second and third gunshot, I could also hear the sirens. The calvary was coming! But in moments, I would hear them go a different direction.
"No! No! They're going the wrong way! I heard them and now they're going the wrong way!"
There was a lot of confusion for me. In some ways, I am sure things were happening more quickly than I realized, and in others, they weren't happening fast enough. The operator told me the sheriff was in pursuit of a car that sped away from the area.
"But what about the guy on my porch? What about my dad?" I cried out. It was only then that I noticed I no longer heard the chaos coming from my living room. Trying to make sense of it all, I asked, "What do I do? What if there is a dead guy on my porch? What if my stepfather..."
"No, you're ok."
The operator told me that a second officer had checked the area, and no one was lying dead on my porch or anywhere else for that matter. I was safe. It was all ok. I wouldn't trust them until I saw my stepdad. And like me being so afraid he'd been killed, he was dealing with his overwhelming fear that something terrible had happened to me.
In the end, the man was arrested. He totaled his vehicle in the pursuit. He didn't even mean to be on my porch. He thought he was somewhere else. The gunshots came from a neighbor across the street. The man had been there originally, and gotten into a fight with one of them. Instead of calling the police, someone yanked out a gun and shot into the air. I didn't hear the first shot. I only heard the three that followed once he was at my door, ramming it with intensity. The neighbor next door to me is the mother of the man's girlfriend. He thought he was on her porch. The terror wasn't meant for me. The fear instilled didn't have my name on it. These sleepless nights aren't mine. This racing heart when unexpected noise jolts me awake doesn't belong to me. The chronic checking of locks, the hesitation before opening the door, the unwillingness to open the shades, or even sit on the porch in broad daylight are not my penance. But I pay them anyway.
All I can think is how silly this is to still be scared. I tell myself how fortunate I am. How there are so many whose doors have been broken down. How there are those who did not survive. That there are those who are dealing with so much more than a temporary instance of loss of control. That there are those who will live with both physical and mental scars for the rest of their lives.
And it make me wonder, are we protecting our neighbors? Because only two calls went to the police that night. Mine and my stepfathers. But multiple neighbors have admitted to hearing the chaos, and doing nothing. Absolutely nothing.
So, do something. If you wonder if you should, the answer is yes. Make the call. I can promise you, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you will be praying someone makes the call for you.
Edit for clarification: While writing, I tried to reveal this situation in the sequence it unfolded for me. But, I want to clarify the events that preceded the mayhem at my door as told to my stepfather and I by the sheriff, the woman who lives next door, and one of the sons who lives where the gunfire originated.
The gun shooting neighbor was not scared. He was angry. Prior to this event, they were apparently all drinking (and possible drugging). An argument broke out and escalated over a flirtation with someone's girlfriend. Both parties are not unknown to the police. The man who landed on my porch has prior convictions for assault and battery as well as spousal abuse. (I have since found this out.) The men who live across the street (an elderly man and his three adult boys) have had their own share of trouble with the law. The sons specifically have been in and out of jail for various drug charges tied to meth and assault and battery. It was me who called the cops on them two years ago when one of the sons broke the windshield of a woman as she tried to drive away from their home.
There was a 4th shot that I did not hear. It was the first one fired, and I was asleep. It is the shot that drove the man to my porch. At this point, there was ample opportunity for one of the 4 men who lived across the street to call the police. They did not. Instead they chose to randomly fire gunshots in the air.
Secondly, the woman who my house was mistaken to belong to told me she witnessed the entire thing. In fact, she heard the originating shot. She told me the following day, word for word, "I thought he was comin' through your door! I was keeping my eye on him, though." Of course, she reassured me that if this ever happened in the future, I should just call her and she'd be out there with her gun. Yet, she did not call the police. She knew who it was. She knew he was mistaking my house for hers. She thought he was going to succeed in busting down my door, and she watched. Just watched.
I just wanted to clear this up. There is no being thankful for the guys across the street shooting their gun. They contributed to that night as much as anyone. Had they not fired the weapon, the man most likely would not have ended up on my porch.