Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What A Day

The following is a blog post from May of 2014 :

We were in bed on a Monday night. 

We were almost asleep when I heard what I naively thought was firecrackers. I sat up in bed and looked out the windows towards our neighbors' property to the east. 

"I wonder what Dan is up to now? Lighting firecrackers at ten o'clock at night?"

My husband pushed me back down in the bed and told me what I was hearing were gunshots, not firecrackers. Thus began one of the more surreal episodes of my life.

We lived within easy eye/ear/gunshot distance of the home that was raided that night.

Paul Harvey used to have a segment he called "The Rest of the Story" on his radio show. I am going to give you my version of the rest of the story about the shooting that occurred that night, and the events of the following days and weeks.

{It has been 13 months since I wrote the above words. That is how difficult January 12. 1987 is for me to write about.}

Moe, my husband, was dressing as quickly as he could but before he could button his shirt there was a knock at the back door. He admonished me to stay in the bedroom, which I gladly did. I heard the door open, a few muffled words exchanged, then he returned and asked for my car keys. I handed them to him, asking who was at the door and where was he going. He said it was Carol (Dan's wife) and he would be back when as soon as possible. I could hear her on the phone, but not what she was saying. They left, and within minutes the sirens started.

The phone rang, over and over. Moe called, said he was at the 76 Truckstop and that he would be home as soon as possible. Freddie called and wanted to know what was going on, he heard chatter mentioning our neighbors by name on the scanner. Sheila called and wanted to speak to Moe. Freddie came home, and told me they were blocking the road  (we lived on Midway Road) at the intersection of Midway and 25th. Another friend called and said they were apparently going door to door and asking people to evacuate. The authorities did not knock on our door that night, nor were we interviewed or questioned for weeks following the raid.

After what seemed like hours but was probably no more than 30 minutes, Moe returned home. He had drank a cup of coffee at the truckstop, then driven home by a route that approached the house coming from the west instead of east, thus missing the roadblocks - one was at 25th and Midway, the other just above our driveway at Christensen and Midway.

Moe cautioned me to stay on the west side of the house, should a stray bullet come through a wall or window. 
There were shadowy figures of men in black ski masks, bullet proof vests and carrying semi-automatic weapons moving around in the area between our house and the home to our east where Dan and Carol Hunt lived with her son Skipper. 
Emergency vehicles came and left their driveway, there were police vehicles - Fort Pierce City, St. Lucie County and later FHP everywhere. 
There were helicopters with searchlights circling overhead, there were sporadic bursts of static from a bullhorn followed by "Dan Hunt. Please come out. This is the police, Dan Hunt, please come out."

At one point Moe went out the front door and was approached by a man in the riot gear described above. He asked Moe his name, and if there was anyone else in the house. Moe replied in the affirmative and it was suggested we go elsewhere for the night. Moe said, no, this is our home and unless we are ordered to leave we would prefer to stay. That was the extent of our direct interaction with any authorities.

Sometime around maybe 2 or 3 AM, there was another burst of gunfire and flashes of light and then billows of smoke from Dan and Carol's mobile home. The police had breached the stronghold, so to speak. 

Moe told me, over the course of the night, what Carol had said to him when he drove her out that night. According to him, this was her account of the events in her home that culminated in the death of her husband and two police officers:

They had finished their dinner, and were watching television in their great-room. Dan had built on extensively to their single-wide mobile home, and the great-room was not part of the original structure. Carol had a poodle, and her son Skipper had a rottweiler named Kilo. There was a knock, insistent banging, at the front door and Skipper called out that he would answer the door and put Kilo in his room. Dan and Carol heard loud voices, then a gunshot. Dan retrieved a weapon from a drawer in a table by his chair, told Carol they were being raided and to get out fast. She grabbed her purse, her poodle, and climbed over the 6 foot fence at the rear of their house and ran through the yard across to our house and knocked on the front door. She told Moe she thought the DEA had raided them, and that Skipper had been shot and she needed a ride up to the corner of Midway Road and US1. She called someone from our phone (I presume to arrange for someone to pick her up?) while Moe came to get my car keys. He took my car because his car was blocked in by mine. We agreed to wait to be asked before volunteering any information, and to tell the truth as we each knew it when questioned. 

At that time, I had no idea what my neighbors had been doing, or how much my husband knew.

I prepared for work, and went in at 6 AM ... the following days and weeks I will cover in Part 2 : After the Raid. 

* I am recounting this from my own memories, and using real names and dates where I can.

** Moe was my first husband, we were married from October 1986 until September 2001. He passed away in March 2002. He was 25 years older than me.

I have not been able as of this day to bring myself to chronicle the aftermath, and what lingering effects of that night reverberated through my life in the years since. The change in me insofar as my thoughts on guns, law enforcement, and friendships. My heart thuds and speeds up any time there is a knock at my door. I have been around firearms my whole life, and have handled them myself, but I find myself questioning the plethora of legal and illegal firearms in this country. I know that there are so many questions, few if any answers, and little to no consensus on such matters in this country.

It changed me, that night did. Because those gunshots I heard took lives.

This morning, just before seven o'clock, a disturbed man walked up behind a cameraman and a reporter as they were live on a local newscast and opened fire. Apparently about 8 shots were fired, and both of those young people died. This aired live on television. I was so distracted (I cannot think of a better word) that when I went to town later for cat food and some pantry staples I locked my keys in the car. I an still unable to get this out of my head, and I feel that it is in part due to the incident in Florida all of those years ago.

We carry all of our past in us, it shapes and defines and sometimes rules us. That is why we need to try to recognize triggers and know how to best cope. Gunfire and loud knocks are triggers for me. This is the personal part. But what concerns me all the more is the bigger picture. 
This country.
Our citizens.
The people in the Roanoke Valley who were watching WDBJ7 this morning and were as stunned as the morning anchor was at what had just occurred. The New York Times said : The shooting and the graphic images that resulted marked a horrific turn in the national intersection of video, violence and social media.

I wish today I could write a poem about a tree, or the cats, or how the fae are busily preparing for winter now that summer is on the wane. I wish I did not feel so mired in malaise that I cannot focus enough to do laundry. 

No witty or inspiring words seem to leap to the page as I type, just halting and timid attempts to express the inexpressible, to make sense of the senseless. This has been a horrific year. It has been a horrific decade thus far. 

I have no answers, no one seems to - at least not answers that appease the general populace. We need to be better as a country, as a society. That much is obvious. My personal opinion is that the solution will be arduous and painful in many ways, and that politics will only bog the process down. 

If things do not change, this probably will not be the only public execution aired live on television while the children are eating their cornflakes and getting ready for school.

Monday, August 24, 2015

This is my voice

This is my voice
In my head
Breaking out to
Touch the world
At times
Timid and elusive
Pulling back when
Not attended
Or derided
Too sensitive
I have been told
The naysayers
Shutting me down
But still
The chatter is a
Constant stream
In my head
This is my voice
Shut down

~Ellen Apple 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon and Lammas

I turn again 
as in days before
Observing times 
of ancient lore
There within 
a comfort found
Connections to 
ancestral ground 
Watching as 
the sun does travel
Even as silks 
of corn unravel
Dark returns 
day by day
Chasing warmth 
and light away
Balance waits 
just weeks ahead
When once again 
the trees shall shed
Their golden gowns 
drop to the ground
Grain and nuts 
which now abound
Will in cellar 
and granary reside
And Summer's warmth 
in our hearts abide

~Ellen Apple 07/31/2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Fragments

A miscellany of items from my Facebook, both personal and my husbands as well, this week.

I have been blessed in my life, in so many ways. I have seen manatees in the St. Lucie River in Florida, swans in Sodus Bay in New York. I have fed days old orphaned lambs in Virginia, and watched pygmy goats being born in North Carolina. I have watched fireflies dance in late May and seen black waves of starlings drift in graceful ballet through late afternoon skies in August. I have held wee babes, and the translucent hands of the elderly. I have cried until I slept, and laughed until I cried. I have been blessed in my life, in so many ways.

Three years ago I wrote this, upon news of the shooting in Aurora CO. There have been multiple shootings in the past three years, and these words still resonate. Today they are in honor of four Marines and a Sailor, as well as nine who gathered to worship in peace and love. This is being such a tumultuous Summer already.
Events occur that shatter the false sense of invincibility we wear a great deal of the time. Life is fragile, like a bubble shimmering in the air, caressed by rainbows. We truly are ephemeral and fleeting in our presence in this life. Let yourself love, give in to your tears when they pool in your soul, dance your joy, and taste all that life offers. Brightest Blessings to each and every person who reads this.

A memory that goes back a half a century or more ...

My mother's parents lived on a farm just outside Bluefield VA, in a small community known as Bluestone. MawMaw used feed sacks as yard goods on a regular basis - ( I believe each feed sack was a yard of either 36 or 45 inch material ) One manner in which this was used was to hem all four sides and make a cloth to cover the center of the dining table. Always in the center of the table was a small crock with spoons in it, covered dishes of honey, molasses, ground cherry preserves, apple butter or some other "sweet" to slather on biscuits and/or cornbread, salt and pepper, and if you were lucky a small saucer with ham, sausage, bacon or such on it left over from breakfast. Once the table was cleared and the dishes washed, the items were all gathered to the center of the table and the cloth was gently draped over them, to keep the dust and occasional fly out of everything. Lovely memory.

Just read a post by Jason​ about misadventures in online ordering from Pizza Hut and it reminded me of an incident that had to have happened over five years ago, when I was a customer service rep at an AT&T call center. 
To appreciate the humor here, you have to be from the extremely rural and mountainous section of Virginia I call home. 
Several other reps and I decided we wanted to go to the Lebanon Pizza Hut for lunch. After deciding what we wanted to eat, one of the other ladies searched for Pizza on her iPhone and called in an order, about 30 minutes before we were due to go to lunch. When we got to the Pizza Hut we told the waitress we were waiting for our food to be prepared and she brought salad plates for those of us wanting to eat from the salad bar, as well as our drinks, 
After waiting for about 15 minutes and no food showing up, the co-worker who had called went to check on the status of the food.
They had no record she had called in an order.
There is a local pizza chain named Pizza Plus and she had called their number in error, and it was for the location in Haysi, If you Google a drive from Haysi to Lebanon, you will see that it is a 43 mile drive that is estimated to take an hour.

Needless to say, we did not get our pizzas and I imagine Pizza Plus in Haysi had several extra on hand that day.

This is a bit of Junk Mail art by Roger. Oscar was his nephew, whose 39th Birthday would have been July 23. Oscar passed away from cancer just before Roger and I met. Mr. Gregory was actually a toy of McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog, a stuffed toy. Mr. Gregory was named after a neighbor of the Apple's in Hampton who Oscar was able to connect with at an early age. The cupcake would have been butter pound cake with chocolate frosting. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We Are The Dreamers

We are the dreamers -
The unrepentant schemers.
The readers of palms and cards -
Finders of stones in overgrown yards.

Dancers in fairy rings,
Believers in magical things -
Wishing on transient shooting stars
And storing up treasure in mason jars.

~ Ellen Apple 07/22/2015

Photograph by Steve Slade

Friday, July 17, 2015

Just Resting on a Star

We grieve 
We weep
We eat 
We sleep
Then in 
From space
So desolate
A still
Sweet sound
From above
Floats down
The sobs
Which solace
"I've not gone
That far
Just resting
On a star"

~Ellen Apple 07/17/2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Flying Off With Angel Wings

Hearts in shock and sorrow meet
Spanning shore to shore
Flying off with angel wings
She'll suffer no more

Love and comfort freely flow
All across the land
Giving space and time to grieve
Touched by unseen hand

For thus has often been said
I believe this, too
What is remembered yet lives
We'll not forget you

Hail and farewell, tender soul
May comfort and peace you find
Ever you shall be with those 
Who think they are left behind

~ Ellen Apple 07-11-2015

I belong to an online Writing Group. We lost a member, and Roger drew this in response to the news. He says so much, just with a no.2 pencil and a Sharpie applied the the back of a piece of junk mail.

Catching a ride on a comet's tail, off to see the universe from which you came - because we are all of stardust made. What an adventure!