We were at the park, our park. We can see it from our front patio. The day was sunny and so the neighborhood was out and about. J was one of probably ten or fifteen little ones under ten running, walking, and toddling about. It was afternoon, around four pm, and the high school was out so there were teenagers at the community center, the pool, and in the parking lot that serves both places as well as the park. Where we were, all three of us. The day felt warm, boisterous, and loud. Andrew and J were making their way up to the top of the slide, and I had moved around behind them, still on the ground. I'm a little intense about spotting J when she climbs on playground equipment. So I was facing the parking lot and saw the gun in the split second before he started firing. It was a shiny metal handgun, and sparks flew from the end of it. He was young, skinny, one of several African-American teenage boys standing in a group. He stood in profile to me, and shot five or six times. I wasn't immediately aware of where he was shooting. Time stopped. Andrew grabbed J, jumped down. I yelled at him to grab J and jump down. Around us other mothers were doing the same thing, pulling their kids behind the slide. One white mom stood tall, looking confused. Tires squealed. The shooter and his companions ran toward us, past us, and away towards the pool. I looked up at the confused woman and she looked at me. "Was that real?" she asked. I found I couldn't speak so I just nodded, mind racing. She picked up her child and ran toward the parking lot. Around us mini-van doors slammed as the park emptied. Andrew and I stood up, slowly. I must have clutched J too tightly, she protested and began to cry. Lots of kids were crying, not from fear but disappointment. They didn't want to leave the park.
"Is anyone shot?" I asked, not exactly sure who I was talking to. Andrew had already started to walk toward the street, toward home. He had his phone and was calling 911. There were no bodies in the parking lot which was now fast emptying of cars. By the time we reached our front door the park was swarming with patrol cars. Andrew stayed outside, still on the phone. My shaking hands could barely unlock the door. I went upstairs to a neighbor's house, handed her my child and collapsed on her bed.
This happened one week ago. I am processing it, slowly, and hope to unpack the experience partly through writing about it here. Expect to see more soon.