When I dropped my daughter off at school yesterday morning, police and campus security were cordoning off huge sections of Exeter in anticipation of a Town Hall visit by the Vice-President. It was a rote and reasonable plan for the dangers inherent in any such high-profile political appearance.
But one can only truly plan for the imaginable.
Looking out the window last night I saw not the small town I’ve come to know, for better and worse, but sights I’d never seen in twenty-five years as a prosecutor. Nor had I seen anything remotely like this when my husband and I lived for years in a Boston neighborhood possessing an (undeservedly) bad reputation for crime.
The sounds came first: screaming sirens, a police car careening around the corner while others cars and ambulances rushed in the other direction. The dogs began to yelp and bay.
I assumed the imaginable: a terrible accident, perhaps a lightning strike. But the emergency vehicles kept coming, including, eventually, an armored truck with what appeared to be military personnel perched on the back. The lone local elementary school’s parking lot, adjoining a much-used colorful playground, was transformed into something resembling a military command center.
By nightfall I saw only blue flashing lights, punctuated with red; a bright flashing yellow light on a pole planted just across from my window; and a sea of more diffuse white light from the outdoor floodlights neighbors–those already in their homes before police set up the barricaded zone–cast on their yards. A helicopter could be heard overhead.
By this time, an enormous section of two intersecting roads had been cordoned off and rumors circulated that three or four police officers had been shot trying to execute a search warrant–and that the cruiser racing away from the scene at a speed so frantic I could hear a pitch of panic had been taking the injured police chief to the hospital.
I hoped the town grapevine was exaggerating, but feared residents’ uncanny accuracy in assembling essential pieces before adding layers of embellishment.
Late last night news outlets confirmed the basic information, and it was even worse than what we had heard: five officers had been shot, and the local police chief–one week short of retirement–had been killed.
No death is like another. I can only begin to contemplate his wife’s loss and his family’s and friends’ and colleagues’ and community’s suffering.
“It’s not supposed to happen here,” stunned neighbors told reporters who surrounded the blockade’s perimeter.
It’s not supposed to happen anywhere.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon