Okay…that is a little thirteen-year-old-girl-ish mellow dramatic; but I could have died…maybe.
I was driving a friend home after lunch on Thursday. She lives in west Baltimore on Fulton Ave. We were exiting 40 West, joining the above street.
For those not familiar with west Baltimore, it has a seven block highway. You get on at MLK and it takes you seven blocks. You get to avoid lights, pedestrians, drive faster, and not have to experience some of the worst neighbors in the city. After seven blocks the highway comes to a dead stop. Seriously. You have to exit or you will slam into these huge concrete barricades. It looks like the highway was supposed to go further but the workers got board and said, “Let’s stop here and go get lunch.” Then they never returned.
Any who…we were exiting 40, rejoining the street above. There was a bus in front of me. As we slowed to stop at the red light ahead, from seemingly no where, a red mini-van skidded out of control and rammed head first into the divider separating those of us coming off of 40 and the top street.
The van hit the monstrous concrete divider so hard it skidded five feet and crunched into the bus in front of us leaving a huge dent in the bus’ side. If we had been ten feet forward the barrier would have hit us; and my tin can mini-van would not have fared as well as the behemoth bus had.
The air bags burst open in the minivan’s driver and passenger side; but that didn’t slow down the dealers at all. Three young, 2o something year old men jumped from the totaled vehical and took off in three different directions.
As they sprinted off, a cop car swung around a corner just as quickly as the red mini-van had before it. It screeched to a stop next to the van and a police officer jumped out. He was screaming into his radio. He chased one of the dealers to the door of a nearby house. It looked as though he might go in the row home. My friend joked urgently as we watched, “Oh no! Don’t do that.” When the cop stepped back into the street to wait for back up my friend and I both sighed in relief.
All of this took less than a minute.
As I tried to pull around the busted bus, my friend and I both careened our heads out the windows of my mini-van to look for the police chopper. She saw it first. By the time I merged back into traffic and got around the bus there were three other cop cars on the scene.
Upon reflection, here is the weird/sad part of the story (and why I’m writing this post). None of this activity came as a surprise to anyone involved. For the cops, this was just another day at work. The people on the bus were inconvienced and frustrated, but I seriously doubt surprised. One of the dealers, who I got a clear look at as he ran away, was laughing. It seemed like a big game to him.
And traffic just kept moving.
When the light turned green everyone just went about their way.
No one was phased by what had happened because it happens everyday and we are hard to it. Many parts of our city are like war zones. Drugs are out of control, the family system has been worn down to a nub, education is struggling, and a culture of disrespect pervades the atmosphere. And each day we become harder to it.
I’m sad that I was not more shaken up by the scene in front of me. I’m sad that I was able to go about my day and not think about it again.
I was meeting with a team on Thursday night and we were briefly discussing the problems of Baltimore. One team member wisely said, “You know, all our problems can be summarized into one thing. We don’t love one another.” I found that very profound.
I’m ready for change.
What is the tipping point? How many of us have to center our lives on loving people like Jesus loves until the city turns around?