At about 10:30 pm, last night, I heard 4 loud cracks that reverberated in the icy parking lot across from my house. Savvy enough to recognize the sound by now, I ran to my third floor window to figure out who had fired the gun. Instead of a person, I saw a large, dark blue SUV, driving erratically down the street. It hit a car parked on the side of the street (effectively reducing it to 2/3 of its original size), and that car hit the car in front of it, creating a domino effect.
I squinted to see the back of the SUV but couldn't see the license plate number.
Soon after that, a series of neighbors came out of their houses to talk to the policemen that arrived 5 minutes after the altercation. While we were talking to them, a series of 4 shots were fired again, this time one street away, and the cops were on their way again.
While the neighbors took pictures for accident reports and assessed the damage to their cars (there was a 4-car pile-up), we got to talking a little bit. Here are some excerpts of the conversations:
Woman who's still in college (panicked):
"I can't believe my landlord wanted to increase rent for this crap-hole. I told myself I would leave 6 months later, and I'm still planning on doing that. It's too unsafe. Did you go to the meeting at the community center? You should go, they explain all about what's going on with the gangs. It feels a lot better to understand the dynamics. Still though, I'm gonna leave, anytime now".
Man whose car was considerably damaged, to cop (laughing):
"Ya, I wish I could claim that dent from the accident, but the truth is that I damaged it earlier on with my foot".
Man whose car suffered the least damage, after moving it from under the third one (in his pajamas, with a winter coat):
"I'm going back to sleep".
Woman who has lived on the street for 20 years, engaging the surprised onlookers (animatedly):
"It's not the environment…I raised my three kids on this very street, and let me tell you, the eighties were terrible…all these drug-related problems…Two of my kids went to college, the older one here (pointing to her Virginia T-shirt), and the third one is a senior in high school…I tell you, back in the day when my kids were napping on the top floor, I would look out the window, and see the drug dealers stash their drugs…then I would call the cops on them with the location and the description of the drug-dealers…they were always surprised when they were caught…Lavinia had to remove her shrubs from her front yard 'cause they'd always stash to their drugs there…I tell you, it's not the environment…And you know, I should know, I'm white. It's all gang-related now".
Woman who has lived on the street for 30 years, when examining the damage to her totaled car (matter-of-factly):
"Well, at least I didn't fill up the tank".