By Barb Arland-Fye
Lost in thought while walking outdoors on an unseasonably warm weekday afternoon, I was startled to see a small white car tearing down a residential street not far from the St. Vincent Center in Davenport. I heard popping sounds coming from the car and wondered briefly, “Could that be gun shots?” I dismissed the thought, figuring that the car’s engine was backfiring and that’s why the driver was being so reckless. But as he rounded the corner one block behind me, I saw two small, dark-colored cars about a block ahead of me. Those two drivers took a sharp left turn. Puzzled, and a little shaken, I wondered what was going on.
As I resumed walking, a young man across the street, yelled out to me: “Did you see that!?” “Yes, I did,” I responded. But I wasn’t sure what I had witnessed. My fellow witness walked across the street, shaking. He had seen someone firing a shotgun or rifle, hanging out the window on the passenger side of the white car. I was stunned; I hadn’t caught a glimpse of anyone in the car. The witness pulled out his smart phone and called the police. He seemed apologetic as he described what he had witnessed.
This is a typically quiet, cozy neighborhood near St. Ambrose University, Assumption High School athletic fields and the Diocese of Davenport headquarters. You’d never think that gunfire would interrupt the tranquility.
After the phone call ended, I gave the man my cell phone number just in case he needed someone to corroborate the now vanished cars. I resumed my walk. Within seconds, a patrol car pulled up on the street ahead of me and blocked it. Another squad car pulled up on the street behind me and blocked that one as well. A third squad car arrived. The officer in the first squad car got out to talk with my fellow witness. The officer directed me to another police officer approaching us.
I provided my eyewitness report, which probably was not helpful because I couldn’t recall important details, such as the make and model of the cars. I had not seen anyone firing a gun; the popping sound had made me think of gun fire. I first heard that sound when hunters roamed the acreage that my husband Steve and I lived on in rural Fulton, Ill. The officer I spoke to took down my address and phone number.
The next day I read in the Quad-City Times that police were investigating a shots-fired incident in the 500 block of West Hayes Street between Scott and Ripley streets. Police had found at least two bullet casings in the area. The short article noted “Witnesses reported a white vehicle was being chased by two other vehicles, all westbound on Hayes Street when the shots were fired. No arrests had been made by late Monday (Feb. 6).”
I was a witness to a random act of violence and thought about the “what ifs” of the situation, which led to further reflection on my pilgrim journey of faith. We’re all here on God’s time, and God expects us to make the best of the time we are given. One of my God-given tasks, I believe, is to advocate for justice, which leads to peace as Blessed Pope Paul VI famously said. I’ll continue to reflect on that task on my walks in the neighborhood and elsewhere.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)