Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We're All Adults here, Can We Act Like it?

I would never encourage anyone to dial 911 as a prank, but I'm hoping that would be my reason for doing so if I ever have to do it again.

911: http://www.the911site.com/

For years the only real car accidents I had ever been witness to were minor fender benders (some of which I caused) and the only big emergencies I had been apart of were having to use the restroom at the most inopportune time. My bladder was the bane of my parent's existence when I was a child. But following recent events I have concluded that the next time a nine and a pair of ones cross my mind they better be on winning lottery ticket or my poor attempt at counting following a heavy night of drinking.

Since I don't work until mid-afternoon I tend to stay up late into Sunday night and into Monday morning. Channel surfing around 2am this past Monday I'm in the middle of a "South Park" marathon. "South Park" hit the airwaves my senior year of college and reruns are a nice trip down memory lane for me. Enthralled with the "Brown Note" episode (hilarious) I hear what sounds like a firecracker coming from outside my apartment. Minutes later I hear it again. Right away I can tell that's no firecracker - its a gunshot.

I grew up in southern Ohio's hill country and in a family of hunters - I know what a gun being fired sounds like. But living in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Akron, near Coventry Township, this was no place to be hearing gunshots.

Coventry Township: http://www.coventrytownship.com/

I immediately run to the door and open it slightly to investigate. Across the street from my ground floor apartment in a diagonal direction I see the an individual yelling at someone, or something, and at the end of his outstretched arm I see flashes of light which are followed by the unmistakable sound of gunfire. Disturbing is the fact the man is standing in a parking lot firing toward an apartment complex. In disbelief I turn off the lights in my apartment and crouch down in order to avoid being notice.

The person fires four more shots, hops into his car and pulls out of the parking lot and heads in my direction. Did he see me? I close the door and lie flat on the floor - figuring he'd have to be one hell of a shot to hit me from a moving car. His late model Buick or Lincoln passes by and I jump back to the door and watch him pull into a driveway a half a block away. I hear what sounds like a car door and something being tossed into the street. He backs out and heads back toward me - no shots fired. Some relief, but not much. I still don't know if someone has been shot and I don't want this dude to get away before I can get a more detailed description.

I thrown on my shoes, grab my phone and following the car from a distance. The car comes to the end of the street, turns and disappears. Once its gone I hurry to where the gunshots were fired hoping I don't find anyone riddle with bullet wounds. Casually searching in the dark I even yell out, "Anyone hurt? Anyone need help?" My chest was pounding and probably would have exploded had anyone answered me.

I pull out my phone and dial those three digits. With my wits about me I tell the dispatcher what took place. No more than two minutes later one of Akron's finest arrives. I explain what happened and he, too, begins searching the area. Before you know it ten to fifteen officers are on hand. I stand off in the distance and out of the way until relaying my contact info and head home.
As I turn around I notice at least twenty people gawking from their apartment balconies. The cops had arrived with their cruiser lights on, but no sirens. I heard the gunshots over my blaring television. Were these people awake at the time? They had to be, there was no other noise outside of the gunfire. Yet no one, other than I, called the police. No one, other than I, tried to keep an eye on this punk wildly firing his "steel courage" at a defenseless apartment building. No one, other than I, investigated to see if some was dead or dying. They sat idly by figuring someone else would go the extra mile despite being scared to death. What were they waiting for? Who were they afraid of? Was calling the police, from the comfort of their home, too much for them? They live directly across the street from the scene and much closer than I do & they did nothing?!

The police stayed out there another 90 minutes or so and I went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. Not because I was scared, but because I could not give more detailed information on the shooter or his car. There were those who could have, yet they chose not to.

Similarly last spring, at about this same time, I also had to dial the emergency phone code. I was on I-77 North, just north of Akron-Canton Airport, on a very windy day. A truck pulling a load was ahead of us in a lane next to me when a gust of wind blew pieces of his load into the air and onto the roadway. Those of us immediately trailing him were able to come to a halt and avoid the debris. Unfortunately an SUV in the lane next to me did not see what took place and slammed on his brakes and swerved to the left. As the truck began tilt he over corrected and sent the truck into an immediate barrel roll. The driver was thrown out his window like a piece of trash. it was surreal.

In disbelief I pulled off the highway, grabbed my phone and got out. I have never been in an emergency situation of this sorts, nor did I have any emergency training but I felt compelled to help. Of those idling cars and stunned faces three of us jump into assist mode. Two people run to the aid of the poor individual whose truck spat him out like a rag doll. I'm dialing those three digits and start directing traffic as I'm giving detail on the who, what, why, when and where to the authorities.

Seconds later, it seems, the highway patrol arrives along with medical personnel. I continue directing traffic until the troopers have enough on scene help. Freaked out, I sit in a cruiser writing my witness statement with my hand shaking like a leaf. Once finished I get in my car and head to work. Later that night I wondered - why did only three of us offer help or come to that driver's aid? I'm sure others were scared, I know I was...but those who watched it unfold sat there until traffic started flowing again. Um...your welcome...I guess ?!

I'm not saying everyone else is a coward or suggesting everybody is out for themselves, but that really scared the crap out of me. What if I had been shot by an armed assailant? What if I had been thrown from an out of control car? Who then would help me? Who would stand up to their fears and help me out despite having never met me?

Now I understand not everyone will be subjected to such things in their life time and can escape blame for emergency inactivity. But let me tell ya - I too thought I would never be in that predicament or be forced to make the decision to help in an emergency. And in the last 356 days I've experienced it twice. Why did I help? For one - I felt it was my duty. Secondly, I wholeheartedly believe someone would grow a pair and help me in my time of need.

Its about getting involved and has nothing to do with being a hero or getting your name in the paper and your mug on television. Life is a test and if you want to watch from the security of your apartment, your car or your home...go right ahead. But remember what goes around, comes around.

Just so you know the driver of that SUV was in the hospital for a few days and,luckily, had no life threatening injuries. Just bumps, bruises, broken bones and a concussion. Also, police found no one with gunshot wounds from Monday's shooting and are in the midst of tracking down that punk. Though I can't wait to see how much courage he has when he doesn't have a loaded gun in his hand. Cowards tend to find the quick resolution.

Mulligans: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulligan

With this past weekend's The Masters golf tournament still fresh in my mind I feel the following is quite appropriate. In life there's only one round and its loaded with bunkers & water hazards. There are no mulligans - get used to it.


Colin Morris said...

I'll never be able to live on the ground floor of anything, gates or guards regardless.

I was paranoid about ground-floor windows and doors at night growing up in my family's suburban McMansion, and moving away to Chicago didn't help.

Let's hear it for walk-ups and elevators.

(Glad you didn't get shot.)

theassignmentguy said...

Wow...two great stories. I honestly don't know if I would have been able to do what you did - but I'd like to think I would have. Very scary stuff, indeed.