I thought of you yesterday morning, whoever you are or used to be who now lives in perpetuity as a roadside reminder of a life lived and lost and wondered at and then; I passed the place where your blood was spilled and your heart stopped beating and your present became your forever past and your future became something that neither you nor I will ever know; it is something that your loved ones and intimates can or would or might imagine when they recall you and your dreams and your possibilities and the things that made you You and then; it won’t go beyond their thoughts and mine; you died there on an Sunday morning when you were on your way to church, they’ve said, you and your four buddies or friends and brothers; five of you left your shattered bodies in a mangle of twisted metal and broken glass and churned asphalt and concrete and cross-walk tape in and through the intersection that crosses the spillway and canal where people drive and walk and ride their bicycles past and wonder at your name and date of birth and date of death and the candles that sit there for you and your friends, lit as markers in the night and fading glimmers of souls in an April morning sunrise; those people see the Easter bunnies and Valentines’ hearts and Christmas garlands that your living family and friends attach and leave on the fence and railing that line the canal and floodway; they saw, back then, those few and several years ago when you left them and us, the five candles lit and maintained for nine days after your death that were surrounded by stuffed animals and cards and pictures and flowers that those loved ones left in their loving of and for you, those tangible and sundry things that spoke to the rest of us and you about their love and the things they wish they had said to you before that Sunday morning; we are reminded, in passing-by as passers-by, that you had and have birthdays that are remembered with tears and a drive to the bridge that is caddy-corner from a burger shop and across the street from a flower store and we see the blurry pictures of you and the lighted candles and poster-notes that you were and are loved by the people who made those pretty signs that tell us they do as we drive-by to here and there and so.
I thought of you again this morning, whoever you used to be and are and felt compelled to go again to that familiar roadside and street corner and look more closely at what has been left behind for you and your buddies or friends and brothers in this Christmas and New Year’s season and found those tangible and sundry somethings that mean you were and are in the thoughts of someone and various somebodies, as there were three separate remembrances to you and them and then, three shrines or tributes in holiday wishes across the street from that flower shop and tattoo shop and nail shop and liquor store and sports-grill and Catholic bookstore…that same flower shop that has the barrel of pink flamingos outside the front door where they sell roses for nine dollars and ninety-nine cents a dozen with crumbling horse-apples in their gravel landscaping and I wondered about you with the cars driving past my back and the cement barrier that separated them from me and you…as I sat there on my heels in the crisp January air with the winter sun shining brightly on me and the angels that were zip-tied to the railing, looking down at your sidewalk with haloes and wings and painted wooden saddened faces with their backs to the concrete spillway and their wings pointed to a sometimey-heaven in my cloudless sky with their wind-blown burgundy and antiqued gowns and then…down the walk from your place is an old bag from the burger shop and a blue-labeled beer can and several discarded butts from smoking drivers in their passing and waiting for their interminable lights to change and allow them on their ways as you sit there or hover in your wondering wandering and visiting of things passed to you and past…across the street is a bus-stop sign advertising a gun-show on some future or passed date and you don’t and won’t care as I sat there amidst the cars’ breezes and tire-hum and noted the red and silver candy-cane garland and red velvet Christmas ribbons with shiny silver-glittered snowflakes and flowers…five ribbons and snowflakes and two white ceramic sad, baby angel votive candle holders with burned-out nubs and wicks melted into their opaque waste and remnant paraffin that collected dust and grains of sand and brake-dust and tire-flashing and memories of speeding thoughts of the passersby in their passing-by…the cement barrier is sending its earnest cold through my sweatshirt and shirt and into my skin as the passing-car-rumble echos into my body and I heard again the dispatcher telling me that it looks like four are gone with two ejected and two crushed and one transported by Fire, who later died, and the other driver is ok I think and the kids are all 15 to 21 years-old and so, or maybe I disremember it that way, and your blood is gone in the years and wind and no longer warm or cold as the burger bag stirs in the other vehicles’ passing and passing and the sun is still shining on my January day as the dry-cleaning hangs in the back seat of my truck with its plastic bag reflecting the sun at me from across the street and the blue ink from my pen won’t write on the yellow crayon that my little one spent on this notepad as I’m trying to record my thoughts of your sidewalk and bridge railing and the cello music in my brain soothes my brain as I write your names on these waxen lines…and I thought you were five boys and young men and understand and know or perceive today that you were and are Eddie and Jazmin and Chris and Brenna and Esmeralda because they wished you all a Merry Xmas by name and said that you or we or I should Believe, as their signs and poster said, the poster covered with bright and spirited Christmas wrapping paper and blue lights…like a present…again, zip-tied to the railing…and there is a single plastic and silk rose with red and white petals that is attached to its own red ribbon-bow from one living person to one gone…and Christmas is passed and another year has begun in moments like the moments of your passing…another tick and tock in the life of the clock and sand that softly whispers in the glass, dropping and falling into a pile or stack of sandy moments and gone…as the poinsettia plant is crisp and watered and beautiful in its roadside red-foil wrapping and so….and I do wonder in my father-mind at the emptiness and sadness around your families’ Christmas trees and dinner tables this year and past, and wonder how their wounds have healed from having their hearts so crushed those days and years ago and I hope that they are okay, but don’t know how they could be, as I thought of you today, whoever you used to be and are….
I had stood beneath the streetlamp and watched the yellow glow bounce from the crystal frost on the roof of my truck like the moonlight on a tessellating sea…and as I moved my eyes, the painted ice caught the light and reflected back to me a million sparkling stars…ones that would later melt from the truck’s roof and flow down my back window like a springtime rain. As I pondered the frost and my breath’s vapor in the wintry air, I noted the quiet of the pre-dawn Christmas morning and wondered what the day would hold for me and the call-takers and dispatchers at work. I was off on Christmas Eve, but yesterday, Christmas, Friday, was the Monday of my work week…so I was moving in that direction…but slowly…I still had to stand there for a minute in my shirtsleeves…relishing the cold…blowing more vapor clouds into the dark sky of my morning and watching the crystal moonlight yellow streetlight dancing on the rooftop frosted sea of my truck…before deciding to go back into the house for my jacket and then heading downtown to work.
The ride to work was uneventful, as were the first several hours in the call-center. After we had determined that all the dispatch positions were covered and the call-takers were all nestled down at their consoles, waiting for calls of Santa Claus committing armed robberies and home invasions, three of the staff went about preparing the much longed-for Christmas morning potluck. Calls came-in and were handled in their routine fashion as our coworkers scrambled eggs, fried bacon and sausage, warmed-up the French-toast ‘casserole,’ arranged and stirred the ingredients in a crock-pot for Joy’s highly esteemed dip, and scavenged in the shift manager’s office for paper plates, cups, and other sundries. The other home-prepared foods were laid-out for us and an hour or so later, the charge was given to commence in the feasting. A couple people were allowed off the phones at a time to prepare their plates and participate in the away-from-home, 9-1-1 Christmas breakfast. The operators and supervisors assigned to first-shift (daytime hours) had to have the seniority to bid into positions on days, so they have been around long enough to know what to expect, or what can and usually does happen on Christmas and other holidays. Emergency services, especially 9-1-1 call-centers, get no breaks. They operate 24 hours a day every single day of the year…Christmas, Easter, New Years, Halloween, Hanukah, The Fourth of July…all of them…when you need us we’re there.
So we answered the phones between bites of eggs and pancakes and sent police officers to domestic violence and fight calls after putting-down our cups of orange juice…ornamented Christmas trees with lights and presents adorned our call-center, and many of our normally uniform-clad operators and dispatchers were in their holiday-finest clothes and felt really damn nice about it. People were happier, cheery, and enjoying their jobs more because they were released from the standard black shirts and pants and boots and thick leather belts…they were moms and dads and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters answering the calls of our citizens on this Christmas morning.
Amazingly, there were no armed robberies yesterday…no hot-calls for thefts of carloads of presents…only one stolen-bicycle call…and a nice collection of domestic violence calls, both physical and verbal, over some damn thing or another…and too many boyfriends were the perpetrators…and too many kids witnessed their separated families coming together for the required child-exchange…and too many dads’ new wives had to call us when the children reported what their drunk mom and her boyfriend had done to them on this Christmas morning. We had a bunch of minor thefts…mostly multiple 18-packs of Budlight or individual 40’s of some other brand…someone stole a jug of milk from a Circle K convenience store…someone else stole some kind or other kind of Christmas morning candy…and some modern Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread…and my co-worker supervisor drove around yesterday morning…to four different convenience stores looking for dish-soap to be used in our post-breakfast clean-up at 9-1-1…he returned empty-handed…not as the victorious suspect of a soap-run who made a ‘clean get-away’ from the nearby corner-store.
Death visited us only twice during our shift yesterday…one old-guy passed-away in his extended-care facility and one not-so-old guy passed away in the lobby of the local alcohol recovery center, on Christmas morn’. We sent police to shoo-away trespassers who were begging/panhandling for money…to accidents involving people who were rushing to their masses or other worship services for the new-born savior…and to search for an 83yo man who wandered away from his elder-care facility…and he’s still missing today…at the end of today, a day later…he’s still missing.
We sat in our chairs at our consoles and watched the eternal scroll or marathon of A Christmas Story on TBS, and while I couldn’t hear any of the lines with all of our televisions on mute, I think I may have seen every scene four or five times yesterday morning…the kid being rushed upstairs after hurting his eye with his new air-rifle…the same kid rushing upstairs to put-on some damn bunny outfit…the sexist father with his new lamp of a burlesque dancer’s leg as his wife blushed and covered her face with her hair in the living room window as the dad stood on the sidewalk across the street with the other neighborhood men as the dad motioned to the mom to move the lamp this way and that to center it in the window…you know what I mean.
And…a friend of mine sat in his wife’s hospital room on Christmas Eve, waiting for her to wake up after having surgery to fix a botched-up surgery that she had a couple months ago…thoughts of this friend and his wife swirled in my mind as I answered my phones and watched the operators fill their plates and laugh at their stories with their pretty Christmas shirts and hairdos on…. This friend of mine, Jason, also has a blog (listed in the blog-roll in the side-bar to the right of this article) and he shared his reflections on this Christmas morning. Jason mentioned that a few weeks ago another coworker suggested that he write something on the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas…and he thought about it and then wrote a posting on the Twelve Days of Christmas: 9-1-1 Style…Jason is rather witty, so it’s a fun read. After he went home yesterday morning from being with his wife in the hospital, Jason wrote another blog…he had his opportunity to reflect on what might be the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas. He was touched by his love for his wife, his esteem for his co-worker who left her kids on Christmas Eve to come to work for him so he could be at the hospital with his wife…he thought about his other friends who had sent him text messages encouraging him, uplifting his spirits…and he thought of his friend from across the country who sent flowers to his wife in the hospital…even though he had never met her. I saw Jason this morning at work…with his tired and gentle eyes…hurting, thoughtful, grateful…and ready to go home. He captured the essence of Christmas in his blog…it was pure…a challenge and a reminder…for all of us. A reminder for all of us that life happens…to all of us…and we should be thankful for what we have, the people in our lives, our friends…those trusted ones who love us through thick and thin…as we answer the phones ‘9-1-1, where is your emergency?’
We did that yesterday, all day, we answered the 9-1-1 phones…sometimes it was little stuff and sometimes it was real…the substance of 9-1-1…when life happens. You might have seen some of it on the news today…a five year-old girl was kidnapped by a stranger as she and her sisters were playing in the common area of their apartment complex…just snatched her and ran…crashed into another vehicle as he was leaving…and was spotted about seven hours later by one of our canine-officers…(the little one was recovered and returned to her family…you can find the rest of it in the news)… on Christmas Day….
And it was Christmas Morning and Christmas Day in our 9-1-1 call-center yesterday…happiness was there amid the memories of lost friends and coworkers…a card was still on our supervisors’ desk for everyone to sign for the highway patrol officer that was killed last week…many of us are reading books with our places saved by bookmarks that were made in memory of our friend Pazzie who passed away just over a week ago…and as we watch the clock and answer our calls and dispatch our officers and wait for our shift to be over, we wonder at the Christmas mornings that were shared by that officer’s and Pazzie’s families yesterday….
And, so this was Christmas….