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.