where we gather on the street every night to hang out and talk and watch out for the kids riding their bikes up and down. It's the kind of neighborhood where we have barbeques on a regular basis, and know the names of everyone who lives in every house. It's the kind of neighborhood where the kids run from back yard to back yard, knowing that someone's parents are watching out for them. It's the kind of neighborhood where everyone knows who is visiting whom, because we recognize most of the cars that drive by.
Two examples of typical interaction around our neighborhood:
1) Last week I was out in the street talking to my next door neighbor. She commented on the fact that I never fill my garbage bin, and neither does she, and we decided to cancel my service so we can share one bin.
2) The other day I came home and one of my neighbors from across the street came over and told me that she had seen Dante home around 9:00 that morning (school starts at 8:30). He told her that he had forgotten his library book, and was back home to get it. She offered to give him a ride back to school, but he said no, that he would walk. She waited a few minutes, then called the school to make sure that he had gotten there safely. (Note: Dante never bothered to mention that my mom and Sebastian were actually waiting around the corner for him, so he wasn't even walking back to school alone. He also never mentioned to my mom that my neighbor had stopped over to check on him. Silly kid!)
There are so many more examples I could give of the kind of neighborhood this is. It's the kind of neighborhood where it takes us an hour and a half to trick-or-treat around the block, because we have to stop for photo ops, and wine, and to wait while the whole gang of neighborhood kids gets candy at every house, because even though we didn't start out together, we've ended up in a big group. It's the kind of neighborhood where my burnt-out headlight is fixed for free before I even knew it needed to be replaced, and where Sebastian learned to ride on a bike that his buddy across the street learned on and outgrew.
And this is the kind of neighborhood where a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home on Friday before the perpetrators set the house on fire. She lived next door to the people who live directly across the street from me, and our house was considered part of the crime scene until late Friday night.
It was the last day of school, and we had a half day. I came in from doing bus duty around noon, and checked my phone. There was a voicemail from one of my neighbors -- it had been left about 15 minutes before, and her voice was shaking. "September, you need to call your mom and tell her that our street is a crime scene and not to bring Dante home this way. Oh, God, here's your mom! I have to go talk to her!" Click. I called my mom and all she knew at that point was that there had been a house fire and someone had died. Later I found out that the reason our neighbor had been so worried about Dante was that they had just taken the body out of the house and she wanted to make sure he didn't see.
When I picked Sebastian up at preschool that afternoon, I took him directly to my parent's house (around the corner from mine, but out of sight of the media and police circus). I went home and had to be checked in to cross the police line that was blocking access to my house. I also had to dodge all the cameras and reporters and trucks with live feed satellites. I got overnight stuff for the boys, and after I was interviewed by the police, we went to my sweetie's house for the night.
When we got home on Saturday morning, the tape around our house was down, and there was plastic covering the broken windows, so the burnt-out shell that was the inside of the house wasn't visible anymore. However, even today the INTERAGENCY COMMAND CENTER is still set up in front of the house next door, the street is still packed with police and fire vehicles, we are still being accosted by reporters every time we leave the house, and our quiet, friendly neighborhood is anything but back to normal.
And, of course, life will never be normal again for this girl's family, especially for her parents. The worst part might be that they arrived on the scene just in time to see their daughter's body pulled out of the house and dumped naked on the front lawn. There aren't words to express how hard it must be for them right now. Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.