There it was. This afternoon, all the things that make urban life so terrifying came crashing into our little school. Just after one o'clock we let the kids out. We have "minimum days" every Wednesday, and the joke is that it usually turns into a "maximum day" for teachers: meetings, making copies, conferences with parents, more meetings. It was this transition to a playground full of kids to an empty expanse of asphalt that our minimum day got filled up with drama.
A mini-van came screaming down the street behind the school, followed closely by a number of police cars - two or twenty - it was difficult to tell in the flurry that erupted. Suddenly the van veered and bounced off a series of cars parked along the narrow residential avenue. The van spun and flipped over, finally coming to rest against yet another parked vehicle - a JC Penny delivery van whose driver had just gotten in and got to witness the whole scene through his side-view mirror. I didn't ask, but I would suspect that the damage to his van was probably exacerbated by the stain he left on the front seat watching a few thousand pounds of metal heading straight for him.
The police were out of their cars, guns drawn, before the mini-van even stopped spinning. The driver (we all agreed that the van was probably "borrowed") came out from the overturned wreck dazed, but able to stand on his own. That's when we started to assess the damage. Four cars (including the "borrowed van") were totaled. Nobody was hurt. All the children who could have been walking along the sidewalk at that moment had made it home, or were still inside the school. Three more vehicles sustained damage that was less severe. One of the totaled cars belonged to a tutor who had come to our school to volunteer her time to teach our kids math after school. Another belonged to my buddy (and constant reader) Banana Girl. She made a point of going up to the cop car to ask the young man who was now seated in the back seat if he happened to be carrying any insurance.
It was an ugly scene. Everyone wanted to get a look at what had happened, but it was all over. A long series of very bad choices had just reached its logical conclusion. All kinds of questions came to me in the hours that passed after the crash: Why were they chasing him through the neighborhoods? Was that pursuit necessary? Was this guy armed? What if he had popped out of the wreck and started shooting? What if we had dismissed the kids just a few minutes later?
It's over now, and everyone is safe - even if we don't all feel that way.