• Casey

(1) 39 weeks: A shooting the week before T's birth

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Five days before this picture was taken, I walked through the scene of a shooting. It took place less than a block from my apartment in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington D.C. The day it happened, I had gone to a new mom's group for neighborhood women who were due with their first child around the same time. We had eaten pastries and had coffee in an over-priced brownstone that had been gutted and renovated, a persistent feature of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where *some* (read, mostly white) people could still afford to buy single-family homes within the city limits.

Lost in thought, I walked with my enormous belly towards the Petworth metro to meet my good friend from graduate school for lunch in Dupont Circle. They seemed nice, I wonder if I will see them again, my hips hurt, when is this baby coming?... and then as I rounded the corner of New Hampshire avenue, I felt myself kick up the pace. Suddenly, I was running my huge pregnant self towards the Petworth metro stop. Without even really perceiving it consciously, I saw (or felt) someone sprinting out of the dilapidated house on the corner of Georgia Avenue and New Hampshire Ave. This was the house I avoided walking past, where a big bull dog was kept on a chain outside and open drug deals were carried out, both swirling within a hazy cloud of stale marijuana smell and hard alcohol. Police cars were almost always idling outside this house or directly across the street, with no action ever taken. The only way I could make sense of this paradox was by watching the Wire.

And suddenly, just seconds after I slowed to a stop, and approached the metro entrance, the sprinting man ran past me and across the street through oncoming traffic, and shots rang out from that house and hit him in the back twice. Everyone near the metro huddled behind trees, hit the ground, or ducked below the metro overhang. I hid behind a tree and images of recent news evens flashed in my mind. The hostage situation at the Starbucks in Australia two weeks prior. The Pakistani school where the children were killed the same horrific day. I gathered myself, paused and then set my sights on the metro entrance and sort of ran/crawled to the entrance, ducking down the escalator in a panic. I called my husband and jumped on the train as soon as it came, trying to explain to him what had happened until I lost service. On the other end - Dupont Circle - I told the metro station manager what I had seen, yet he seemed un-phased and un-interested. My husband called the police to report what had happened and I walked, dazed, into a Sweetgreens to buy overpriced organic kale salads and sit next to well-dressed ladies and gents in designer suits.

I told my friend about the shooting and broke into tears. I had no idea what happened to the man or why it had occurred. She hugged me and we talked about it for a little while, then we didn't. Because what really is there to say over kale salad when you are in shock and only have a half an hour or so before she goes back to work? Should we talk about racial segregation in Washington D.C., the stark inequality and patterns of gentrification that I am willingly taking part in? My financial status and what neighborhoods that allows me to live in within the city? Perhaps. But instead we talked about friends from graduate school, pregnancy, my dissertation.

That night when my husband came home, I didn't really cry much. Honestly, I don't know whether we even talked about it after that day except to say, "remember when I almost got shot?" because many more, surprisingly dramatic events would transpire in the weeks following. This memory would both be buried and fused with other traumas that would unfold through and after T's birth, and images of bullets piercing a pregnant belly, obliterating a fetus, or my husband on his way home from work, would torment my sleeping and waking hours for months and months to come.

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