Reflections on a shot heard round the block

[This post doesn’t have much to do with bikes, but it involves an event that took place across the street from our shop over a year ago. – Josef]

Last April, when an otherwise unremarkable day came to a close, a car pulled up next to a young man from the neighborhood and its occupants opened fire.

Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I got used to stories of shootings and violence. Heck, I got beat up by a group of 13 other guys once and had a gun pointed my way a half dozen times before I was 17 years old. Violence in the streets isn’t something I was previously unaware of.

It wasn’t until after the police were gone and the neighbors were back in their houses that I realized the memory of a young man shot and bleeding from the neck in front of me is going to be with me for a long time, maybe forever.

The feelings I had that day had something special and ferocious mixed into them, and I couldn’t even think about them rationally until I read a story on Zocalo’s Nexus blog entitled “Shot Heard ‘Round the Block” by Jennifer Ferro:

“Last month, I was pulled out of my descent into sleep by a shotgun blast from outside my window. I don’t know how I could tell it was a shotgun, but it was unmistakable. I ran to check on my two girls. Both were still asleep. Then I ran to a darkened room to look out the window.
That night, with my kids asleep, my husband out of town and my dogs quiet, I watched that shotgun and the man carrying it as he walked past all my neighbors’ homes. I realized I couldn’t warn them. I didn’t have everyone’s number anymore.


What happened last April when I saw that boy bleeding into the ground at Greater Oak Park, across the street from my shop, with his extended family tearing their hair out and yelling to God, was a realization that I worked yards from their front door and we’d never acknowledged each other’s existence. Yet, here we were sharing this horrible moment, and, along with the typical adrenaline and stress of seeing an injured human, I was very sorry for not having been a better neighbor.

I wasn’t prepared, we weren’t prepared, to help one another out in a time of crisis. Without the police and fire department, it seemed as though we’d be like a bunch of wild dogs sniffing a corpse we’d found in the forest.

Our civilization requires more from us, more from me, than for us to fulfill our role as consumers and providers of goods and services. Civilization requires altruism, and the guilt of not living up to that will live with me for a long time, maybe forever. Time to go out there and gather some phone numbers.

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  1. Humberto
    Posted June 10, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Great post. I will follow your lead.

  2. Jen Petersen
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    hence the urgency of a tighter-knit, human-scaled city unconstrained by the steel and glass boxes–and their requisite single-family homes–in which Angelenos hide their lives. Keep reaching out from you bakfietseat and you’ll teach others how much better it is, Josef! beautiful, poignant post.

  3. Jim Cooper
    Posted June 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    OK- This is complete personal opinion, so disregard it if necessary. This event Will be with you forever- it’s now part of you. You are Not supposed to be prepared for something like this. You are supposed to be saddened but for you to feel guilty is usless. Altruism has its place but the world is full of good people in horrific and dire situations and you can not save them all, even when that big mean world is across the street in a public park. When it comes to death, you look it square in the face, you acknowlege it, you accept it, then you turn your back and walk away and you just do your best. You’re a family man, you’re a business man, you are an active advocate for better city living, believe me, you are doing more than just about everybody else. You are easy to find – this old fogey from the IE had no trouble finding you. So- keep up the good work- and enjoy life.

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