October 18th, 2001

Chalkboard

(no subject)

My Neighbor's Suspicious Package and Being Evacuated by the Bomb Squad

We had a bomb scare here last night. My neighbor immediately to the south of us came home and discovered a strange metal box on her porch. It looked like it might hold money or important papers. It had a handle and had JLLA, and Do Not Open, written in red letters across the top. She called everyone she knew, to ask them if they had dropped something off. Not knowing what it could be, and certain it hadn't come from anyone she knew, she called the police.

I had been to our neighborhoods black captain meeting at our local church and came home pretty late. I put Beau to bed and was sitting on my bed talking to Scott when the phone rang a couple of times. I ignored it, thinking I'd let my service pick it up because I hadn't spent much time with Scott. I guess Beau answered it because suddenly he was on the intercom saying Karyn (my neighbor) wanted to know if I had anything to do with the "money box" because if not, she was calling the police. I called her back because I didn't understand what she was talking about but just got her machine.

Some minutes after this I got a page on the intercom from our security gate on the street. It was the police and they wanted us to come down so they could talk to us. I was curious and somewhat concerned, so I just threw on a nightgown and Scott, Beau and I went downstairs to see what was going on. They told us about Karyn's suspicious package and let us know the bomb squad was on its way. They suggested we evacuate for a couple of hours or at least stay to the far side of our house, away from where the blast might hit.

It was all so surreal. I felt instinctively that it was nothing, just some silly mistake, and that we'd all be fine, but the poor police were taking it so seriously, so we had to go along with their suggestions. While they were taping off our block with yellow tape, I went to my neighbors across the street to warn them, but they were asleep and wouldn't answer the door, then I went to my sweet elderly neighbors on the corner and tried to warn them. They told me, via their intercom, that they had gone to bed and weren't about to get up for some silly bomb thing. It didn't seem to alarm them that a dozen police officers were walking all over their lawn and taping things off. I really love these guys, this is my neighbor who is still surfing in his eighties, just tosses the long board on the Cadillac and goes to the beach. He's so cool, his wife is wonderful too, but that's another story.

Scott, never one to stick around when he isn't going to get a lot of one on one with me, (I was concerned and wanted to talk to my neighbors and the police, I wanted to see what was going on), decided to split, and took off. Looking back on it, despite the fact that he was tired and wanted to get to sleep for work, I think I should have insisted he stay. I don't like to ask people to do things when it's pretty clear that they don't want to, it just makes me feel too sad. Even though nothing happened, it would have been nice to have his support, and not just for me but for Beau and for the neighbors as well. Anyway I didn't like that he left, it kind of blew me away when he asked me how I would feel if he did. I wish I'd had the courage to say, "Hell, yes you should stay." I mean at that point there was a chance something could happen, the police took it seriously enough to send us outside in our pajamas and made us walk a block away. He doesn't like it when I compare myself to him and tell him what I would have done were I in his place, but I'm sorry, if there were a bomb threat at his house, nothing would have been able to drag me away from his side.

After Scott left beau, Noemi and I huddled together with our neighbors down the block. Karyn's father and brother's came by to offer some support and a neighbor friend of mine came by to watch. We couldn't see how the bomb squad checked the box because they made us move out of the line of sight. I felt sorry for the police because I knew how many weird things just like this, they had spent their time running after.

At our block captain's meeting, earlier in the night, the local commander came by and mentioned that just that day, they had had twelve Anthrax calls, all of which turned out to be nothing. The night before a man had come in to the police station holding a zip lock bag with an envelope inside. He handed it to the desk sergeant and said he was worried that it could have Anthrax, because it came from Africa, and he didn't know anyone in Africa. They've been getting a lot of this kind of stuff, but they are required to take all of it seriously. He said, essentially, that people were paranoid and panicking. It was so odd to be talking about these kinds of things, and then come home to find something like this right outside my door. It was also fairly disconcerting being told that I needn't wake the neighbors to the West, because my house was big enough that it would probably absorb the blast. I got a lot of joke mileage out of that one. "Don't worry Karyn, you go sleep at your parent's house, Nancy (Karyn's neighbor on the other side) and I'll absorb the blast for you." BTW I have to tell you about Nancy sometime, (God what a beautiful person), but I don't want to drag this on much longer here tonight. We do have some really amazing women on our block, (nuns, a decorated nazi resistance fighter, a best selling author, the CEO of the Starlight Foundation, teachers, doctors, nurses, moms) there must be something magic going on here.

Anyway just to wrap this all up, aside from a man who drove by and told us all to read Psalm 27, nothing ever really happened. We stood around for a while, chatting and wondering about all of this, and then we got the all clear. They rolled up the tape and we were allowed to go home. The box turned out to be, of all things, a package of materials for a Junior League "Ride The Bull" charity event. This prompted a couple of jokes about exploding society girls in cashmere twin sets and pearls. All in all it was an interesting evening.

The worst part of it though was how Beau pretended he was just fine with all of it, when inside he was seriously afraid. After everyone left he was afraid to sleep alone in his room and came to sleep with me. That's when he felt safe enough to let himself cry. He told me how important his room is to him, he said, "Mom I was so scared. That's where my favorite things are. everything in the whole world that means anything to me is in there. My computer, my Playstation, my DJX machine, my Leopard Geckos, all of my clothes. I just didn't want to cry in front of Noemi or anyone else because people always say I should act more grown up and not to cry." It's so sad that no matter how hard you work to help your kids, particularly boys, learn how to identify and express their feelings, someone will come along and shame them out of them.