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January 13, 2018

4. December 21

December 3, 2016. A quiet Sunday.

8:10am. A knock on my front door. I’m still not really dressed but I open the door anyway. My three-month old cries a little behind me as my wife does her best to console him.

“You got any jumper cables?” the shirtless man at the door asks. Tattoos cover his back and wildly cover his arms. His hands are grimy and he smiles politely through his neatly trimmed goatee.

Andrew was always fixing Stacey’s ever-breaking car. Her 1980 Mercedes-Benz sedan ran on diesel and was mostly parked with the hood up. Andrew and Stacey lived across the street and down one door. Catty corner, you might say.

“I really should buy some and keep them handy but I don’t have any,” I reply. I don’t know enough about cars to be any help to anyone except pumping gas.

“No worries! You guys have a great day!” and his squirrelly steps took him away before he finished his sentence.

My almost-two-year old peered from behind my leg when it was safe enough to look.

The pungence of gasoline stung my nose and lingered in the doorway for ten minutes after he left.

He revved his mid-nineties Chevy and sped off to buy another part for the old Benz. Maybe some jumper cables.

* * *

December 18, 2016. An average Monday.

As evening fell so did rain. My attention was on my steps, avoiding rain in my eyes and water in my shoes. Only after I was in the car and driving away do I remember—vividly—seeing a man in a black sweater, hood pulled up. He was standing at Andrew’s door, soaked, ominous. And that was that. 

* * *

December 21 is a fairly quiet day in history. Right?

December 21, 1937, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre. Amid the Great Depression, this was a monumental film in both style and messaging.

December 21, 1946, still in recovery from the second World War, a devastating tsunami it Honshū, Japan. The tsunami was a result of a massive earthquake just off the coast earlier that day.

December 21, 1968, marked the launch of Apollo 8, the second manned spaceflight mission in the United States Apollo space program. It left Earth’s orbit, circled the moon ten times, and returned to Earth.

* * *

December 21, 2016. It was a Wednesday. Winter Solstice: the shortest day of the year.

9:10am. I was in the back of our house, changing a diaper. My wife was at the front of our house playing in the living room with our one year old.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

“Someone’s been shot!” my wife screamed. 

I thought of stray bullets going in any direction and somehow finding their way in our house. Hot bullets of death.

She was looking out the curtain and looked back at me, her pale face was sure of her words, “I heard the shots and I saw him run away.”

“Hang on. I’m going outside,” I said. Somewhere inside of me something called confidence released from my brain and into my mouth and into my legs as I ran outside.

“Please help! He shot my baby!” Stacey pleaded. I remember these exact words. I knew there were three kids that lived in this house and instantly my heart sank and all my confidence vaporized. Who shoots a child? Then I realized her “baby” was Andrew, her boyfriend. On the ground. In a puddle of blood. One of her children stood by (unharmed), a complete statue in the wake of shock. 

It never crossed my mind a shooter was on the loose but he had fled and ditched the gun in a neighbor’s hard.

I heard a moan and knew Andrew had some life. 

If I don’t know anything about cars, I know even less about guns and gunshot wounds. What was I supposed to do to ensure he survived? Stacey could only hold his hand, blood everywhere, and scream and cry. I looked down at my hand and somehow I had held my phone through all of this. 

911. Yes, I have an emergency.

Police arrived first: take my name and info. All while Andrew is moaning for life. I hear Stacey ask where he is shot, “Oh God, did he shoot your neck?” Hysteria.

Finally. An ambulance. By now Andrew is on his knees, body in shock, thinking he can stand up. Medics take the situation and I can’t watch. Then I remembered Andrew was more recently Stacey’s fiancé.

Police take Stacey to the local station. I talk to some neighbors that came outside, saw some of it, tried to help. Eventually I go inside and make some coffee. What do you do?

Later that day, just hours later, I saw Stacey and she approached me. Andrew passed away in surgery, she said. That was that.

* * *

The shooter was arrested and charged for Andrew’s murder as well as a previous shooting the night before.

Andrew’s funeral was December 27, 2016. He was 35.

This is a historical non-fiction piece. All of the story above is a true, first-hand encounter. Names have been changed for privacy. I battled long and hard about publishing something online describing a real man and his very real death. Is it disrespectful or impolite? I am still unsure.

This was the 50th homicide in Savannah, GA in 2016.

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