Last night I promised you wouldn’t die
Last night I promised you wouldn’t die.
I am now rescinding that promise.
Last night as I was driving home, I came upon what I thought was a car accident scene. I could hear you yelling for help. I could vaguely see your shape lying on the road in the dark.
I saw the cars in front of me turn around and speed away. As I came closer I could see you were lying on your side in a pool of your own blood. When I reached you, you said, “I have been shot. Please help me. I am dying. I can feel it.”
You had been shot multiple times. I could see blood pooling from two wounds in your back and what appeared to be another wound to your right arm.
A young girl was calling 911. A young Arabic speaking man was standing next to you, his bicycle behind him, the only witness. Or the only witness brave enough to stay and tell the police what he knew. They stayed and helped, as did others but when I knelt down in front of you, we locked eyes. You begged me to help you. You wanted to know that we were not going to leave you there to die in the street alone.
I took your hand and looked you in the eyes and I promised you that you were not going to die. I meant that promise. I am not a doctor and I have no way of knowing what damage had been done by those bullets but my gut told me that you were not going to die there so I made you that promise. You stopped yelling and laid your head down on the road. Your bloody hand still holding mine.
You are young, good-looking, big brown eyes, strapping, strong man the same age as my own son. You are in pain, traumatized and at the mercy of strangers. You need those strangers around you to help you. You need your community to save you. Your eyes said it all. We were strangers, together, on a wet road, in the cold, in the dark, waiting for an ambulance.
And they came. Police, ambulance, someone who seemed to know you. I stepped back and let them do their work.
When I got home I trailed your blood across my floor. I washed it out of my pants, off my shoes and out of my hair.
Today I read in the paper that you are alive. I told you that you weren’t going to die last night.
The paper also said that the police believe that the shooting was targeted shooting because you are involved in the drug trade and that you weren’t cooperating with the investigation.
Someone wants you dead. If someone could actually shoot a gun properly, you would be dead now.
Your parents would be receiving mourning family and friends this morning. Your brothers would be trying to plan your service, choose your coffin, and decide your final resting place. Your last breath would have been to die like a dog in a pool of your own blood on dirty, cold street holding hands with a stranger. This would have been your final moment. Your crowning achievement.
But you were given a second chance. There are very few second chances in life. Whatever damage the bullets did, understand this. Your community saved your life. Strangers, the police, the fireman, the paramedics, the doctors and nurses, the old man who donates blood every week, even the person that cleaned your hospital room this morning, contributed to saving your life. This is the same community that suffers every time there is another act of violence. This is the same community that is at risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Five minutes earlier and I, with my van full of children could have been the next victim. Five inches to the right and you would have picked up by the coroner instead of an ambulance. This is the same community that stepped up to save your life.
So where do you go from here? I am not here to pass judgment on you or why you do what you do. I don’t live your life but what I am sure of is this, if you want to live, is the time for you to change your life. Clearly the choices you are currently making are not safe, healthy or good for you or for our community.
The community that saved your life are victims too. The community that came to your aid, also live and work in your chosen target shooting range. Young children were in the van behind the one you were in when you got shot. The police, fireman, paramedics, neighbours, and our communities are all victims of this mess and yet you turn to us for help…and we were there for you.
What will it take for you to stop? The fact that you owe us your life? For most people that would be enough? Is it enough for you?
The fact that in that moment that we locked eyes, it wasn’t about money or status or being tough or brotherhood or misplaced identity and pride. In that moment, it was two strangers holding hands in the dark, trying to save something …someone …valuable. It may have been the first really truthful moment in a long time for you.
I saw a man that was seeing his life flash before his eyes and in that moment all he really wanted was to be in the arms of his family. In the end life boils down to some very basic things. We want to love and be loved. We want to be heard and we want our life to count for something. We are all brothers and sisters, striving for the same thing. Death is the great equalizer.
So now you have put your bravado mask back in place. Keeping your mouth shut to protect something, someone. Whatever the reason, in the dark, when no one is looking, remember my face. Remember that moment when you looked in my eyes. Remember what you felt. It was your truth.
Remember the moment you thought you were dying. Don’t ignore this last warning. Turn it around. Get help. Make a better choices. Others have gotten out and you can too.
This isn’t about loyalty anymore. It isn’t about proving anything. It is about living. Nothing more. Choosing to live.
If you do not make the right choice and soon ….. then you were right all along. You are dying.
It’s only a matter of time.
Last night I promised you wouldn’t die. I am now rescinding that promise.
This time …. if you want to live ….. it will be up to you. You know what you need to do. Do it. You are worth saving.