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.

No comments:

Post a Comment