November 14, 2008

But I Can't Live in Fear

On Tuesday, October 21st I uncharacteristically got out of bed with enough time to go for a 3 mile run. The usual loop Mike and I use for that distance starts on one side of our block and ends on the other. That morning when I turned the corner, the street was blocked off and there was a Winnebago and some plain clothed police officers moving about. I didn't know what was going on so I just went to the next block to meet back up with my loop and complete my run. It wasn't until I got to work two hours later that my friend told me a young man was shot on the end of my block the night before and what I ran past was a crime scene.

In the opposite direction, between my home and office, is what is known around Albany as the "student ghetto." It's a bunch of square blocks of crappy old houses carved into apartments that are cheap enough and run-down enough for college students to rent and throw endless beer pong parties without worry of property damage. It gets seedy enough that the city started an anti-crime initiative called Corridor of Safety. I don't know what the Corridor does because the route I walk to work still has the highest mugging, assault, and robbery statistics in the city. I don't worry about it, though. The crimes all happen to drunk, sloppy kids who are walking home between the hours of 1am and 4am on Friday or Saturday nights. That's it. That's the window. Mike and I are certainly not out that late and we most definitely don't walk around anywhere in the city that late at night at all let alone intoxicated enough to be that stupid.

The shooting happened at 11:30pm on a Monday night. Not in the student ghetto but in a very quiet neighborhood of renters and owners near the most visited park in Albany, right off a high traffic road. Mike and I were asleep and heard and saw nothing. Even if we weren't asleep we would've assumed the shot was a firework or a tire popping. Never a gun shot. That doesn't happen where we live. It doesn't even happen in the student ghetto. Guns aren't involved in the crime around here.

Richard Bailey was a much loved student at SUNY and he just took a police exam to follow in his father's footsteps as a Long Island police officer. There was no sign of a robbery. The people who did this just shot a man in the head and took off. If it weren't for a passing motorist he would have died on the sidewalk instead of surrounded by family in the hospital. I wanted so badly for him to be a drug dealer or drunk and violent or something that would belie a motive of some kind, any kind. But nothing. Everyone loved him. He helped put a roof on a church near my office for crying out loud. It was a completely senseless, baseless crime.

I'm scared to come home later than 10pm. I will wait 20 minutes for the bus that will drop me off in front of my apartment instead of taking the bus that will be sooner, and free, but drop me off two blocks away. I don't want to park anywhere that isn't on the main street near a street lamp. I used to walk down to Lark Street to meet friends at a bar but now I won't if there's a chance I'll be coming home when it gets quiet on the street. I'm letting the shooters dictate my life. I shouldn't, I know that. But Richard Bailey could have been me. He could have been Mike. I haven't yet let go of that.

I was struggling to write this post because I didn't tell my dad about it. I didn't/don't want him to worry. But he reads this blog so now he knows. I just had to get my feelings out there. I have to put my fear out there, own it, in order to let it go. In order to take my neighborhood back. I love where we live. I'm not leaving here because of the crime, but I'm not really living here either.

Of the other eight homicides this year the one that I know of was also senseless. A ten year old girl was killed by an errant bullet in a drive by in an Albany neighborhood that is getting increasingly violent. But that violence didn't stop her from playing outside that terrible day and that doesn't stop her friends from playing outside now. Maybe they've accepted that that's what comes with where they live. Maybe they just don't let it dictate their lives. No matter, they play outside anyway.


The Common Daisy said...

It's horrible not feeling safe in your own neighborhood. I tutor at a community center relatively near my place that is 0.1 mile from the el station and I drive because I don't feel safe there at night. I feel a little silly wasting gas by driving but you have to do what makes you comfortable but don't let fear keep you from doing what you want to do.

dad said...

Sadly it is sometimes a random world in which we live. There is such a thing as living in fear and entirely another thing called situational awareness. You have to be aware of your surroundings just about anywhere, and it's always smart to play it safe. If you do that though, you have good reason not to live in fear. Trust your gut, if you have to ask youself if something is safe or not, best to leave it.

Anonymous said...

I think its the wise and sage-like Blue Oyster Cult that said "Don't fear the Reaper."