Ercille I. Christmas
Locked Down & Out: In Woodland Hills, California
January 19, 2011 began as any other routine day – did the usual and headed out of the door – and ran into a police blockade about half a block away. I decided to reverse and head down another street – another blockade. I again reversed and headed down an unfamiliar street. Yep – another blockade. I was intent on going about my business and ending the day by heading to Bible study, so I decided to persevere. After all, the blockade would be over by the time the Bible study was over, right? Those were the thoughts of one unaccustomed to police blockades and lockdowns.
I stopped at the other intersection at the request of one of the police officers stationed there. I rolled down the car window and he instructed me to "pop the trunk.” He stated "trunk.” I heard "hood,” so I "popped” the hood. By this time he is probably thinking "not the brightest key on the key ring.” Yes, I know. The usual saying is "sharpest knife in the drawer,” but in the interests of falling in line with the new atmosphere of the non-use of "war-like or vitriolic” verbiage, I think that I just came up with a more appropriate substitute. The officer politely informed that his request was to pop the trunk. He offered to open as I explained that the keys were needed to open the truck. He opened the trunk and the "white male, with long graying hair” was naturally not in there. In the meantime, the other officer, dressed in a different type uniform, decided that since I had obligingly popped the hood, he would look there also. No the "white male with long graying hair, tied back in a pony tail shooter of a school police officer,” was not there. Whew! I was allowed to proceed on my way.
I merrily went on my way fully expecting that when I was ready to return to the area, I would make my way to Church for the Bible study, where we would be studying the book of Romans. I was looking forward to that. Alas, it was not to be. This is California where the routine appears to be that nothing is routine any more, especially when it comes to what is going on in schools. The heading of this Los Angeles Times articles says it all: "Gunshots again cause turmoil in L.A. Unified schools. To be fair this time around, the gunshots were not on the school grounds. There was however, another shooting around another school on that same day. At that other shooting, a student on his way home from school, was shot, as I later found out.
I returned to the area to find the streets were blocked off beginning at the same street that I would need to cross over to get to the church. No problem. I made a left turn and made my way up another street intending to at least see if I could make it home. I followed the cars in front of me. They turned. I turned. Good – so far. I am closing in on the cross street that would take me to my abode. The traffic came to an abrupt stop. I was so close. I decided to park the car. I was about half a mile or so away from home. I am not exactly in "marathon” shape, but I would have been able to at least huff and puff my way home – by walking. Nope. I was politely told no way. I returned to the car and told myself that since I had not eaten breakfast and it was now after 4 p.m., I would consider this a day of near fasting, cleaning out my colon, and if it came down to having to use the bathroom, I had plenty of paper towel and plastic bags in the car. Hopefully I would not be arrested for indecent exposure!
By now it was apparent that I could not get out of the street if I tried. The cars kept coming with some parking up as I did, and others turning around. I watched with bated breath as a loooong delivery truck navigated the turnaround to reverse and head away from the blocked off intersection. He made it. I approached a lady in an SUV parked behind my car. We commiserated with each other. She had her two kids with her. She was three houses away from her own house, but could not cross the "finish line,” not even by walking. I decided to pass the time by calling friends. I found out that my pastor and one of the other members of the church were stuck at the church. I did not even think of reading a book, two of which I had in the car, including my own "heavyweight tome.” I was too wound up to read.
Then it began to get dark. I began to regret removing that old blanket that I used to keep in the car, for "the big one,” the earthquake that it supposed to hit California. I remembered that I had a small old fashioned transistor radio – I am not yet in the IPod age. I was able to get radio updates. That under $20 radio had good reception! The last call I made was to Fay, our Church Secretary and found out that both her husband and our pastor had managed to "escape” the church and head to their respective homes. Fay advised me to call 911 or talk to the cops to see if I could get a "dispensation.”
I decided to talk to the cops. A family had beaten me to the punch. There was no way that we could be let through the barricade of the cops’ car and the yellow tape. The Levine family and I introduced ourselves, and I found out that Whitney the daughter, is a published author of The Tiniest Reindeer. I was in the company of a famous child author! We got a good chuckle when we realized that we had a connection already in that my last name is Christmas, and her subject matter was about a reindeer. We also found out that we share the same publisher, Author House. Who says fiction is more interesting than real life? What are the chances that Christmas could meet up with Jolly the reindeer, through author Whitney Joy Levine – Christmas, Joy and reindeer at an intersection with two helpful and pleasant police officers, in January, not Christmas? I already have a friend whose name is also Joy. I am surrounded by "Joy” and I don’t want to escape!
I was asked if I had kids that were trapped at school. I shared that I did not, nor did I have a husband, and gave my standard joke about my marital status, not finding a man "worthy of me.” Whitney, with all of the wisdom of a fifteen year old, patted my shoulder and assured me "don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” "Out of the mouth of babes” – and child authors! I keep being presented with very concrete proof that rainbows always show up in the midst of clouds. Not only did I get introduced to an author, published at thirteen years old, but at now even wiser at fifteen, she gave me advice on matters of the heart.
Just about the time that we had gotten over the coincidences, another car pulled up and this time, as I was told by Mr. Levine, it was an undercover cop car. Our patrol officers were told "let my people go!” Actually, that is not what the officer said. I did not hear the conversation. But, I can be forgiven if I had begun to feel as if I were involved in an Exodus-type situation! We received the good news from our officers that we could finally leave. Yes, by now, they had become "our officers.” We said hasty goodbyes. I told one cop that I loved my officers. He said he loves us too. That is after I had earlier told two cops that I hope that they soon catch the SOB! I was not finished. I had told a crossing guard that whenever I heard about folks messing with "my” troops or law enforcement, and firefighters, that I could rip their hearts out. Oops – are those words of incitement? I don’t care! Our protectors are not perfect but they protect us – and I appreciate their efforts to do so!
This brings me to my analysis of the situation. Many folks were upset at the seven mile blockade and the day into night time frame, especially where the kids from the nine locked down schools, are concerned. I agree that the school lock down procedures need an evaluation. Kids, especially younger kids should not have to undergo such an extended ordeal. I do not know what I would have done if I had a child that I could not pick up. I would have had to fervently pray to God for patience to not do something foolish, such as accelerating my car, and driving past the blockade. Whitney our author, had finals for which she should have been studying, and she was stuck on the streets until almost 9 o’clock at night. So the politicos will need to get going on refining the procedures, especially for reuniting the kids with their parents.
Other folks, including at least one person who commented in the previously referenced Los Angeles Times article, felt that the extensive lockdown and blockade was because there was a cop involved. Maybe so. But what if the officers had done a cursory search of about one hour, wrapped up, and the alleged shooter had decided to get in some more target practice, and this time shot a civilian? What would have been the public and political response? I could bet my high speed yacht that I do not have, that the outcry would have gone out about the "screw up by the cops.” Theirs is a thankless job. For this time, let us cut them some slack. I had encounters with six officers. Without exception, they all understood of our discomfort, courteous, polite and professional. "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Not one of us can cast a stone at these officers.
Truly this is a case of "all’s well that ends well.” The officer, who was shot, by the grace of God and his bullet proof vest, is alive. The alleged perp with his "graying long hair tied back in a ponytail,” may have cut that hair by now – and that would be a good thing! "Long graying” locks worn by a man, should not be in a pony tail. I am now going to hear from at least one male friend with long gray hair! David W., I am not talking about you! I met some fine folks, including some of those same police officers. I received marital "advice.” And very importantly, as I e-mailed my friends when I was reunited with my computer, I finally got to "gobble down” a sandwich after not eating for 10 hours. "Gobble” it I did. I could have probably won that Coney Island hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s!
On a more serious note, I hope that the officers catch that alleged shooter before he does any more harm. What would be wonderful is if he searches, and finds a conscience – somewhere – and turns himself in. He may as well. "My” officers are not going to give up.
About Ercille I. Christmas
Ercille I. Christmas was born in the tiny Caribbean island of St. Kitts, the "Gibraltar of the Caribbean." She is thrilled to be an American citizen, living in "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Formerly a supervisor in the insurance industry, her life changed on September 11, 2001, and she has devoted every minute since then, to speaking and writing about the threat that Islamic terrorism and internal anti-American behavior pose to our country. Her book, "Thoughts of a Proud American," can be bought on Amazon.com, and she also blogs at www.Ercillesworld.com and www.Ercillesuniverse.com.