We raised our son in Oakland. He heard his share of guns going off. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes on a holiday. Celebratory gunfire. Most of the time we consoled ourselves with the idea that it was probably firecrackers. Probably.
In the second or two after we heard the report, then the crack behind us, all those sounds played in my head. And while those moments from the past jangled about, the words that came out of my mouth were these: "Move. Now."
We weren't in Oakland. We were in San Luis Obispo. How could this be happening? My son reacted to my tone of voice as well as his own adrenaline from the noise we all heard. He went quickly around the back of the house. His house. The one we were visiting. He wanted to make sure that we could get inside.
I had a hand on my wife's back, herding her to the front door. I knew that the door was unlocked. I had been the last one out when I left to go pick my wife up at the train station, and my son from his Black Friday shift. Once we were through the door, I considered turning off the porch light. I thought about locking the door. I wondered where my son was.
That's when he appeared. Seconds after we had separated on the driveway, we were reunited in the living room. All three of us were breathing like we had run a marathon. Then the questions started.
"What was that?"
"Was that a gun?"
"What did it hit?"
"Are you sure it was a gun?"
My son was sure. He dialed 911 and reported a shot fired. He gave them his name and address. He hung up.
"They said someone else also called it in."
We stood in the center of the dark house, not wanting to move. Not wanting to turn on a light. A patrol car was coming.
Eventually we sat on the couch and turned on the television. We waited.
My son answered the door to meet the officer who was there to make sure we were safe. My wife and I, emboldened by the presence of two police officers, walked outside to look at what may or may not have happened. As we looked around with the aid of our law enforcement flashlights. We were asked to point out where we heard the sounds. They wanted to reassure us that it probably wasn't a gunshot. There was no damage to the garage, the car, the driveway. There was no shell casing.
Maybe it was a pellet gun. Maybe an Airsoft rifle. We listened politely to the conjectures. We took some comfort in them. And when we went back inside, after thanking the officers for their help, we spend the next hour unjangling our collective nerves. It didn't make a lot of sense that a gun would be fired in suburban San Luis Obispo on a Saturday night. By some drunk? A frat guy? A teenager? Juvenile delinquent?
We wondered aloud. We doubted. Then we affirmed. Whatever it was, it got us all moving. Together.