Laura and I just spent the last hour working out how to respond to a neighborhood email chain about something that happened two nights ago at the corner house across the street from us. Actually, we aren’t finished yet.
Here’s a sketch of what happened the other night and of the email chain….
At about 12:30 on Wednesday night our neighbor’s car alarm went off for what felt like a very long time. Laura went out on our balcony facing that way to see if she could tell what was going on, but not seeing anything (and the alarm finally stopping), she came in and said S had probably set if off because she saw someone near one of the cars out there (this is not an uncommon occurrence). We went to sleep and in the morning Laura found that S had texted her right after the car alarm deal and let her know that she had indeed set it off herself, explaining that a woman had been on their porch and she was trying to get her to leave.
In an email from S and her housemate yesterday they said that their security camera showed the person tried to open their screen door and when it was locked, rang the doorbell repeatedly and peered in the glass (which is at eye level) in the front door. This email went to Laura’s work so I didn’t see it or the various neighbor responses until she asked me to read the chain and to watch the attached security camera clip. The clip shows a Black person who looks to be a trans woman walking up the porch stairs and then doing what I indicated above. I thought maybe they were barefoot so we played it again and they were indeed barefoot. On that run through I thought maybe they had a hospital bracelet on so we played it twice more and determined that this does seem to be the case – an inch or so wide slip of white paper was around their right wrist. The person left when the car alarm sounded but the non-emergency police dispatcher told our neighbors to call 911.
Ok. So someone was on their porch late at night who they didn’t know and who might or might not have been trying to break in or might or might not have been trying to get away from someone or might or might not have been confused and in a mental health crisis situation – or possibly some combination of all three.
In response to the email about this, one of our neighbors was kind to the people whose house it was and then compassionately noted that the person on the porch might have been having some mental health issues. Another neighbor added a supportive comment to the homeowners. A third neighbor replied with something about having seen “the perp” at 145th and Aurora (implying that they were prostituting) and that at least they were out of the neighborhood.
As you can imagine, we were doing sort of ok until “the perp” comment (though calling 911 on a Black trans person when nothing had happened was troubling), but then it got hard, fast. We managed to craft an email to the whole chain that diplomatically (we think) balanced empathy for the neighbors but also pointed out that the person was barefoot and wearing a hospital bracelet, making it likely that as indicated by the first neighbor’s response, the person was having some mental health issues. It was deciding to respond off the chain to the neighbor who made “the perp” comment and then writing said email that took so long. It’s really hard to write a reasonably polite angry email to someone you’ve never met but who lives three doors up from you. Well, at least it was for us. I think we did ok, though.
We know there’s virtually zero chance that it will change his mind or his behavior, but it still felt important not to let it go.
May we all be safe when we are in need of one kind or another.
May we be willing to refrain from using inflammatory language about one another.
May we be truly strong and centered.
May we all accept that each of us are precious, irreplaceable works of art.