My husband Dan was in the Army for twelve years.
And that is why he knew what we were hearing when someone began firing a gun two blocks from my office tonight, while we were sitting in our car at a stoplight.
Yes, actually, it was as scary as it sounds. Thanks for asking.
My office is in Hyattsville, right across from Prince George's Plaza Mall, a block west of the P.G. Plaza Metro station. I take the Green line every morning from Greenbelt to that Metro station and walk to my office. Most mornings, I stop at the Giant and buy a Diet Coke on my way to work, because the coffee at my office tastes terrible.
I don't know where the shooting was--probably at the Metro station--but we were sitting at the red light at East-West Highway and Belcrest Road and I heard six shots in quick succession. We had left my office maybe sixty seconds earlier.
It's weird. Gunshots sound exactly like you think they would, but quieter. They sound a little muffled. But as soon as you hear them, you know exactly what they are, exactly. I knew what I was hearing as soon as I heard it. But I asked anyway.
Right away, I said, "Dan, were those gunshots?"
"Yes," he said shortly. He was looking around, checking all of his mirrors, making sure he had a clear route to drive away fast if he needed to. Within five seconds, cops with lights on and sirens flashing were flying towards us--probably six cop cars right away.
I turned around to look out the back window. Max, strapped into his car seat, was in the center of my vision. Behind him, in the back window, I could clearly see the footbridge over East-West Highway from the Metro station to the mall, where seven or eight pedestrians were sprinting away from the Metro, really running. Like I would run if someone were shooting, like I couldn't get far enough away fast enough.
I barely registered them though. What I was really seeing was Max, staring back at me. "What happened, Mama?" he said.
"Nothing, baby," I lied.
And what I thought was, the minivan made so much sense when he was an infant and we could put him into the car without having to bend over, when we carried everything with us because we just didn't know what we would need, but now we're so far up in the air. We're so exposed, and Dan knows about gunfire and he's said before that a car isn't any kind of cover if someone's shooting at you. And there's my boy, strapped in his carseat, helpless, and exposed, and somebody close enough for me to hear has a gun, a real motherfucking gun, and any second they could start shooting again. And there's my boy.
The light turned green. More cops flew past us. Dan hit the gas. "Let's get the fuck out of here," he said grimly as he peeled out.
I thought of my office right away: two blocks away from the intersection where we were when we heard the shots, and got on my cell phone. "Dianne, it's Molly," I said, as soon as the receptionist answered the phone. "We're two blocks from the office and somebody's shooting. Don't let anyone in or out. Lock down the office."
Dianne said, "Oh my God," and she dropped the phone.
I waited until we had turned onto Route 1, and I called her back. "Is everyone okay?" I asked her.
"Everybody's fine," she assured me. "The office is locked."
Dianne sounded as shook up as I felt, and I could hear a lot of people in the lobby. "I'll let you go," I said.
"Thank you for calling me, Sweetheart," she said. "Be safe."
We were far enough away that Dan was now thinking about something other than just getting away. "Sounded like a 9 millimeter," he said, "but not an automatic. Punk gun. Probably a gang-banger."
Hyattsville and Riverdale Park, just to the east, has had a rash of gang-related violence recently. I haven't been that worried about it.
"The car isn't any kind of cover," he told me again. "But a 9 is only accurate for about 50 feet. Past 75 feet, if they hit you at all, it's totally random. If you hear gunfire and you're close enough to see the gun, you really only need to be 75 feet away."
He continued, "If it's a gang-banger, he probably doesn't know what he's doing anyway and can't aim. That could work for you or against you. If it's a soldier who's lost it, though, they can probably hit you from 200 meters if they have a rifle."
I didn't say anything for a minute. "Could you hit someone from 200 meters?"
"Yes," he said.
"Could you hit someone from farther away than that?"
"Yes," he said again, without hesitation.
"In the Army, you never fire from more than 600 meters from the target."
"What if you're Jake Gyllenhaal?"
"Those guys fire from 800 meters," he said.
"Could you hit someone from 800 meters?"
Dan does not talk much about things that happened to him the Army. I know some things that he is not allowed to talk about much because they happened in places that he is not allowed to talk about. Sometimes he just doesn't want to scare me.
But someone started shooting tonight, somewhere close enough for me to hear the gunshots and know what they were right away, and I have never felt more vulnerable in my life. For me, and for my total badass hero of a husband, and for my sweet boy.
I am going to go and take a Xanax and drink a very, very large glass of wine. I am feeling a bit...on edge, shall we say?
Monday, April 7, 2008
My husband Dan was in the Army for twelve years.