A crash sounded and the house shivered in the dark.
Did you hear that?
What time is it?
I fumbled for my cell phone and hit the button to light it up. 2:59am.
It's three o'clock.
I'm going to go see what happened.
T shuffled upstairs. I sat in bed, staring at the nearly pitch black room. The basement doesn't get much light, especially at night, but a faint blue glow came from the high line of windows and I lay quietly, waiting to hear that someone had dropped a glass of water in the kitchen or something. I could hear murmuring voices coming through my ceiling and the floor of the living room.
The basement door opened again.
Could you turn on the light?
I stretched and found the switch for a big bedside lamp. A wave of anxiety passed through me. What was going on?
It had come from outside. The neighbors just moved out last weekend, and someone had tried to break into their shed a year ago. T headed up the stairs with a wooden baseball bat.
I followed him, groggy and worried. We all gathered into the living room, staying away from the windows. No one could really tell where the crash was from, since it had woken us all. What if it had been someone trying to break in here?
Trying not to disturb any curtains, we peeked through the window blinds at the snowy yard below. Shadowy figures stood in the middle of the street, their dark silhouettes harsh and alien against the white snow.
How many of them was it?
I could see three, no four.
One had been walking on the side of the house.
T's father called the police. As we looked more, emboldened by their talking on cell phones almost loud enough for us to hear, we could see that they'd come too quickly out of the school parking lot across the street and hit a tree that stands between the neighbor's property and this one.
We stayed quiet, listening. They were all men, and Hazleton has become increasingly dangerous in the past decade.
I've heard some blame it on the growing immigrant population, which is a ridiculous thing to say if I've ever heard one. People from other countries don't make crimes. The fact that Hazleton is a dying city, haunted by closed churches and quiet cemeteries, dotted with empty warehouses that used to give hundreds of jobs and now just give ugly shadows on the horizon - now that causes crime. Lots of people without lots of resources. Desperation.
And the scary thing is that you never know, unless you know the people personally, or their parents (and that only works sometimes), whether you have to worry or not.
God forbid that these guys would have been troublemakers and going out to check to see if they were okay would have meant danger. It's a shame that it could have, just as much as it may not have.
So no one went out to see. But two people called the police.
And the police came, and the kids (who they ended up being, mostly underage) were polite and deferential, and explained how the driver, a soldier recently home from Iraq, hasn't been in snow in awhile and wasn't used to the lack of traction.
And, after things had quieted down, I looked out of the front window and saw a line of tracks in the snow, coming from the crashed car toward the front door but stopping three feet from the steps and heading back the way they came, and I wanted to cry.
I want to live in a world where, if someone crashes a car in my front yard, or in the neighbor's front yard, or down the block, my first reaction is to pull on a sweatshirt and go outside and invite them in for coffee until the tow truck comes. Not, however, to talk in whispers and automatically be afraid of kids who's worst crime was celebrating their buddy's safe return home too enthusiastically (no, I don't know if he'd been drinking, I don't think so judging by what the police officer said afterward). The parking lot across the street is to a high school - they may have been visiting old stomping grounds.
This morning, I'm saddened, but encouraged. No one was hurt. I don't think anyone is in trouble, from what I gather. The worst thing is a busted up car - because I seriously doubt that vehicle will be running any time soon.
And, now I have another thing to think about and strive for in creating a world for my one-day children and grandchildren to live in...
"That was the day the ancient songs of blood and war spilled from a hole in the sky
And there was a long moment as we listened and fell silent in our grief
and then one by one,
we stood tall
and came together
and began to sing of life and love and all that is good and true
And I will never forget that day when the ancient songs died because there was no one in the world to sing them."
— Brian Andreas (Traveling Light: Stories & Drawings for a Quiet Mind)