One day several weeks ago, I woke up refreshed ready to take on the world. It was a triple duty day – consults on the ward, clinic hours as well as on call duties. It was also one of the first warm sunny days of the year. In my usual morning haste I rushed out of my apartment but the stairwell I usually take down was occupied by several people. Maintenance I think. No worries. I’ll just go down the other stairwell. No problem. But I get outside and there’s yellow tape all across the building. So, I duck underneath, and start to make my merry way towards my car. What else was I supposed to do? I then realize that the road in front of my building is also blocked…in both directions. There’s an ambulance and several police cars. Needless to say, my activities were spotted by a police officer.
“Ma’am” (did he just ma’am me?!) “did you come out of that building?” “Err, yes, yes I did” I stammered. Then from somewhere inside me I asked “Why? did something happen?” He replied “Ma’am” (there he goes again), “did you hear or see anything unusual overnight”. I scan my brain and all I remember is how wonderfully I had slept. “Nope!”, I replied. “Well, I’m going to have to get your apartment number , phone number, and see your driver’s license” he says. I comply.
“Anything else?”, I ask coolly. “You are all set, we will call you if we have any other questions” and with that, I’m dismissed. So, I walk towards my car wondering how I’m going to get out of the parking lot seeing how the road is blocked in both directions. Now I’m approached by 3 policemen who ask me what I’m doing wandering around. Long story short, I was sent packing back to my apartment and ordered to stay there until told otherwise.
Oh no, you don’t…I need to go to work…I’m pretty important…Things will come to a standstill without me I’m thinking in escalating alarm. So I explain to the head policeman that I’m a doctor, and I need to get to the hospital as I have patients scheduled to see me! Didn’t work! I did learn though that there had been a death, an accident or perhaps a homicide in the area. I’ll be honest, at that very minute, I didn’t stop to think about how unfortunate it was that somebody had died overnight. I assumed an elderly person had passed away and all I could think of was why did my patients who were still alive and had a chance of remaining so, be put at a disadvantage because somebody else had been called back to God? I know, cold, but this is the reality of triage.
But I do as I’m told and go back to my apartment still thinking of myself and how my day has just been messed up. I call the clinic, my nurse, and my ward attending to tell them that I may be late or may just never show up that day. After a couple of hours of patient waiting for the police commissioner to clear me as I had been promised so I could leave, I decided enough was enough and walked out of the building. This time, there were many more police and a crowd of spectators. Each police officer I passed by stopped me to question me about the prior 24 hours. Each took my apartment number, phone number, and driver’s license despite my many protests that I had just given the same information to that other police officer! Each police officer claimed to just be low on the totem pole so they couldn’t give me permission to leave the premises. I eventually made my way to the police officer who seemed to be in charge and who was pretty irate that “I was walking all over his crime scene”. How was I to know? That’s when I realized that somebody had been killed for sure. Ummmm, that didn’t sound too good!
I couldn’t get my car but I did make my way to work by public transportation. Surprisingly, the hospital had managed to function fine without me. Imagine that! After my day was done, I returned home to an eerily quiet apartment surrounded by news cruisers. Later, on the local news I learnt that a young woman in her twenties had been shot in her apartment in my complex sometime overnight. That although neighbours thought they heard gunshots, no-one had called the police. The unfortunate woman was found in the morning by the maintenance man who noticed that the door to her apartment was open. Okay, now I was scared. I knew I had moved into a less desirable part of town by my definition, but I did not sign up for this!
The worst part were the people who admitted they heard something, in fact the people who said definitely that they heard gunshots and didn’t bother to call the police for various reasons. One person said he always heard gunshots around here to which I thought, really, have all those random bangs, and pops I have heard in the distance once in a while been gunshots? Oh my! How unsettling.
I guess other people around here feel as bad. That one of us could get hurt, that another of us could be in a position to help but would decide not to for whatever reason. What does that say about us as human beings? I know my neighbours are thinking the same because over the past few weeks since the incidence, we are looking each other in the eye when we meet in the hallway, we are saying “hello, good morning, how are you doing today” and we are building a community. A community. Because we can’t just be individuals in our individual holes in this building, in this town, in this world concerned only about ourselves, and expecting someone else to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the people of Hartford are yet to learn this lesson.