Emergency Response

Often the late evening finds me pursuing essential researches in my office near the back of our house. The isolation is splendid, but the downside is that I can't hear very clearly what's happening in the front of the house, which I hasten to add is somewhat smaller than Windsor Castle, or outside it.

The night before last, about 11 o'clock or so, The Dog heard something out on the street. What Kate told me afterward is that he went into his alert pose, ears cocked, head turning to try to zero in on a sound. After a few moments, Kate heard someone yelling for help outside.

So she came to the back of the house to tell me. I jumped up and headed to the front door. She called 911 while I grabbed my softball bat and went outside in my stocking feet (I may want to rethink some particulars of my response).

Sure enough, a woman was screaming; at first I thought it was coming from across the street, where our neighbors' houses all appeared to be dark. Then I realized the screams were coming from up the street, from a house on the corner. Some new folks bought the place a couple months ago–I haven't met them–and have been having lots of work done on it. While out for a walk earlier, I had noticed that all the lights on the house were on and the windows open.

The woman was shouting her address and saying she was by herself. She sounded extremely distressed, and frankly I was worried that something very bad had happened. As I headed up the street, I saw a neighbor, Doug, headed over there ahead of me. By the time I got to the house, Doug and Eamon, another neighbor, were both inside and helping the woman, who was in a bedroom.

She had been working on the place and a window apparently came down on her hand, perhaps breaking one of her fingers, and she wasn't able to extricate herself. I saw that Doug and Eamon could handle things without me, and I went back outside. Doug's wife Kay was crossing the street with phone in hand, and Kate also came around the corner (without The Dog). Three other neighbors appeared in the next minute or two, and then the Berkeley police–four or five officers in all.

Quite a turnout for what looks like a minor episode. But of course it was only minor in retrospect. Anyone listening might have reasonably assumed that what was happening was a matter of life and death, and I'm impressed that so many of my neighbors responded so unhesitatingly.

4 Replies to “Emergency Response”

  1. Holy cow.
    Yesterday, as usual, I picked up Niko at school. I hung out outside the back door as instructed (as a middle schooler, Niko no longer wishes me to wait for him inside in the lobby). Before Niko emerged I noticed a friend of his – let’s call him Rick – and an older brother and maybe another kid getting on their bikes and heading away.
    So I get Niko a minute or two later and we are tooling at about 15 mph through the neighborhood streets around the school, headed toward the freeway. As I pass through a quiet intersection I notice, just a house or two down the street to the left, a bit of a commotion in the middle of the street. “That’s Rick!” Niko says. I stop and back up, turn left, and there sitting in the road is Rick. His bike is beside him. He’s being attended to by a woman, who has apparently already fetched him a bag of ice, which he is holding to the side of his face. There’s a splotch of blood on his chin, cuts on his leg. The older brother is on a mobile phone, obviously calling for assistance.
    Rick’s a big, chunky kid, boisterous and maybe a little more fluent in the argot of teens than most of Niko’s 11- and 12-year-old buddies. My guess is that whatever Niko has learned about human biology might very well have come in lectures from Rick. Not that he’s a kid who has placed the highest priority on scholarly pursuits; video games and grab-assing seem more his thing. So it was kind of shocking to see him look so quiet and vulnerable, fallen there on the road. He was puffy and red-faced. Clearly there had been tears.
    Niko waved to Rick and said, “I hope you’re OK!” I asked if there was anything we could do and the woman who had brought the ice bag said no, a parent was on the way. “Thanks for stopping, though,” she said. I told Rick I hoped he was OK, and we drove away.
    Afterward I was wondering if I should have pressed to see if there was something we could have done. Gather the kid and his bike up and take him home? But while Rick looked pretty banged up, there didn’t appear to be a serious injury, there was an adult there (maybe two , actually, now that I think about it) and the parent had been contacted. I had been assured the situation was under control. And I think when that woman said, “Thanks for stopping, though,” she really meant it. I guess just showing up was all I could do, and in this case was enough.

  2. Pete, I would say you did a great thing, and just the right thing, by stopping and checking on what was going on. You sized it up the way I would–someone had responded effectively, and a parent was on the way. I love what Niko said: “I hope you’re OK!” What a nice kid.

  3. Great neighborhood response. My neighborhood used to be like that. At one time, we all had maps of each house on the block and across the street and across the alley with people’s names and phone numbers that we could call in case something happened. It was part of the neighborhood watch thing.

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