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.

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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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