We live in a neighborhood where almost everyone around us has been affected by violence or death. It seems like everyone’s uncle, son, cousin has been shot and/or killed. Last year we participated in a candlelight vigil for a neighbor two doors down whose son was killed with a concrete block. Besides the killings there are also random shootings. Last March a man was shot in the foot on the street next to me at ten in the morning.

Not only have we dealt with shootings, but also death. Erwin lived two doors down from us in a house he was fixing up for the owner. A loner, Erwin had a sweet spirit but didn’t open up much about his personal life. He grilled most nights because they were still fixing up the kitchen and always smelled of lighter fluid. We would invite him to dinner– he wouldn’t come, but would always accept the food later. They didn’t find his body until it started rotting and flies gathered around the door. A neighbor called the cops. They said it had been a few weeks. We all felt sick to our stomach for not checking up on him earlier.

I had always comforted myself with the illusion that the violence would not touch me because I wasn’t involved with the drug trade, didn’t do drugs, and therefore wouldn’t be a target for the random shootings. Until yesterday.

I had taken my friend Mary Kay to drop her SUV off at the tire place. We had just pulled up in front of her house in my Volvo, her newborn son David in the back seat, my headlights on and car running. We were chatting about how to get babies to sleep when we saw a car idling in the street adjacent, about thirty feet away from us. Our conversation stopped after we heard a the pop pop of gunfire. A man got out of the car, pulled out a gun and we saw light and eight pop pop pops into the alley. I turned off the car and got down under the steering wheel as fast as I could, bracing for I thought might be a shooting, asking for Jesus to protect us. I was terrified because our car was on, we had seen the whole thing and I thought maybe he would be angry at us. The car sped away. A man in grey ran towards the car as fast as he could, presumably the target of the bullets, for the moment safe and whole. Two girls starting shrieking right after that, asking where their brother was. We tried to call the police but her phone wasn’t working. I am still in shock about the whole thing. Just writing about it makes my insides all tight.

The illusion I had of being “safe” from targeted shootings has been shattered. I keep thinking “what if” What if we had arrived a moment earlier, Mary Kay walking across the street with her baby when the shooting happened– what would have happened? Would she still be here? I feel very vulnurable, unsure of what is safe to do. Any advice on how to move on with normal life now?

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