Saturday, February 8, 2020

Overtaken By Events

Life happens. Most times, it's things beyond our control, outside our sphere of comfort and influence; events that, in some cases, could alter the rest of our lives and impact decisions in the near future or decades beyond.

We've had a run on those events lately.

For me personally it started back in November, on the day my wife underwent surgery to repair a heart valve. There is no more helpless feeling than seeing a wife or child suffer and then face a very serious medical procedure. In the end, my amazing bride bounced back very quickly and has been back to her old self for some time.

Stacy's mother, the inimitable 86-year-old Retta, has had a spate of health issues the last couple of years, resulting in two major surgical procedures. Mom's spirit and strong faith have seen her through, as she's currently rehabbing in an assisted living facility from the latest issue at the end of November. My wife, Retta's only daughter, spends time with her every day, leaving our home at 0730 for work and returning most nights around 8 pm.
Every day.

Joyce, my older sister, has been living with the daily pressures of caring for her husband David, who was stricken with sarcoidosis eighteen months or so back. Its a disease that attacks the lungs and is capable of spreading to other organs, such as the heart. Constant trips to doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and several hospitalizations filled their days, regardless of what the world was throwing at them, mindless of holidays or family events.

Tragically, it took my brother-in-law of nearly 48 years last month, less than three years after retiring from his job as a union plumber.

Oh, and Stacy and I became grandparents again, courtesy of my oldest son Travis and his fiancee Desiree. Raelynn Kay arrived on January 15th at around 1030 am, weighing in at five pounds and 10 ounces, just a little peanut considering her Daddy is a 6' 04" man and Momma is tall as well.

She arrived a couple of hours before we buried my sister's life-long husband and best friend.

Though feeling the need to, I won't apologize for not making a blog post in nearly 45 days.

I was just overtaken by events.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Once A Cop, Always A Cop

The old saying goes, "you can leave the job, but the job never leaves you." That truth has been proven to many a retired copper through decades past, and I have the feeling it will always be true.

It held so on Christmas Day.

As was on Christmas Eve, a thick fog blanketed the landscape early Christmas morning here at Black Gold Homestead. The heavy mist left anything exposed to the elements with a glistening sheen; sporadic hissing cut through the gray curtain every time a vehicle passed by, which wasn't often at all.

This Christmas morning, as is our tradition every year, Stacy and I leisurely enjoyed our cups of steaming Tim Horton's coffee, or 'black gold', as I like to call it, while lounging in the living room of our modest home, recalling the family gathering of the night before and the laughter that is always the main thread of such events. We have some rather fun relatives, you see.

Afterwards we readied ourselves to visit the one family member missing the night before; Stacy's mother was hospitalized with a gastric issue that will require surgery.

Leaving the house and heading west up the hill, past a harvested field of corn on the left and woods across from it, I saw a big, gray box laying in the ditch on the south side of the roadway, probably three hundred yards from our home. Turning to my bride, I remarked, "that's a commercial safe. Somebody's business got burglarized."

Turning around in our neighbor's drive, we traveled partially down the hill to where the safe was located. I activated the emergency flashers on our Jeep and got out.

The large box was laying door side down, its door, having been removed, was on the wet leaves beside it, the long door handle and round, electronic dial facing up. I punched in the number for the Sheriff's Office on my cell phone and notified dispatch of what we'd found.

"We'll have a deputy en route shortly. Will you be standing by?"

I advised the dispatcher I would not, explaining about my mother-in-law. "You can't miss it, though", I laughed. "It's pretty big."

We left.

Stacy and I returned home around 1 PM, noticing the safe and its door were gone. "Wonder what they used to haul it out of the ditch", I mused. That, as they say, would be that.

Or so I thought until around two o'clock this afternoon, when Detective Joe Rotuno knocked on my door.

Det, Rotuno explained that he was investigating a business burglary in his jurisdiction, Perkins Township in Sandusky, and that the business' safe had been found not far from our place.

"Yeah, I'm the guy who found it." I explained what had transpired on Christmas morning, adding that I was a retired police officer. I shook his hand and introduced myself, Joe's face split by a grin. Knowing he was dealing with a fellow copper made things seem more...familiar, for lack of a better term. Law enforcement is, indeed, a brotherhood.

Joe explained that, through watching the business' security video, a Little Caesar's pizza franchise in Perkins Twp had been broken 0600 hrs on Christmas morning, a mere four hours before Stacy and I found the safe! The culprits, who'd been wearing masks, entered through the shop's drive-through window; all told, from time of entry to wheeling the safe out a rear door on a dolly, the obviously experienced thieves spent six minutes on the job. Figuring an hour's drive from Sandusky to Mansfield, they'd had to have used a van or small box truck, at the very least, to haul the safe to Richland county, and had worked on its door while traveling.

"Apparently, when Richland County recovered it, the safe still had some paperwork from our Little Caesar's in it; they called us and, when we checked the business, discovered the break-in", the detective remarked. "Otherwise we'd never have known where the safe was from."

We passed a few more minutes chatting, then Det.Rotuno moved on to our neighbor Kay's house. to see if she'd noticed anything unusual Christmas morning. I reclaimed my spot in the recliner as Roscoe, our pit bull, continued to doze on the couch; he'd lost interest in the stranger who'd knocked on the door once it was apparent Joe Rotuno wasn't there to kill me.

 Questions began running through my mind, along with a few scenarios.

Why would a safe crew travel from Sandusky to Mansfield after pulling a job? Were they local to this area? If so, why go all the way to Sandusky to snatch a safe? Could it be possible they were from somewhere south of Mansfield, and just found a remote spot on a foggy morning to dump the safe while passing through town? Why dump it where it would almost immediately be found, instead of, say, rolling it off a bridge into a river or creek?

My own personal conjecture? The mopes are professionals, definitely, though I can't imagine they'd get more than a few hundred bucks from a Little Caesar's. Why pick that spot? Had they scouted it beforehand? Could an ex-employee have been involved, maybe knowing how much might be in the safe in addition to knowing where it was located inside the store and that it wasn't secured to the floor? The criminals might be from this area; Lord knows Richland County has produced its fair share of safe-crackers...but why go all the way to Sandusky if that were true?

I caught myself halfway through trying to answer all those questions.

I'm retired. Let the next generation find those answers.

But I'll always have that cop's mindset, until the day I die...just like all my other retired brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Back In Time With A Brother In Blue

Rotator cuff surgery is not a pleasant experience; just ask medically-retired former Mansfield Police Sergeant Keith Coleman.

Or me.

Keith's accumulated a variety of nicknames through the years, from Bubba to Biscuit to Keefus and plain old KC. He's a good-natured man with a hearty laugh, who now makes his way in this world as a registered nurse.

That's right, RN. After being forced to retire from law enforcement due to a rare blood condition, KC went back to college and earned a nursing degree. He's in the Oncology department at an area hospital, caring for patients requiring chemotherapy, among other things.

My old pal, an avid golfer, tore his left shoulder muscle swinging a golf club last summer and recently had it repaired; he's wearing a wedged sling on his left arm, one that holds his forearm away from his body so as to aid the repaired muscle's proper healing. I had the same procedure back in '17 on my right shoulder and it's no fun.

Getting old, you see, isn't for sissies.

Knowing he can't yet drive, I picked him up yesterday for an excursion to the city building and then lunch at Coney Island on the square. I figured I'd give his lovely wife  Lisa a little break from having KC under foot around the house as he recuperates.

We never made it to lunch.

The purpose of our trip to Mansfield's muni building was to visit with a few long-time friends not yet retired, folks we'd both worked with back in the day and hadn't seen for awhile.

I parked my GMC in the lower east lot at a metered space, immediately realizing I had absolutely no change with which to feed it. "Hey, the next one beside it has an hour and twenty-four minutes left on it", Keith observed, and so I maneuvered into that spot. Problem solved.

Not. Keith and I spent well over twice that amount of time wandering the halls of MPD.

Our first stop was the second floor where command staff offices are. The first thing I missed was seeing Nettie Ballard's always-smiling face behind the glass at the receptionist's desk. It also required an explanation of who we were and why we were there to the gal manning that post, as she had no idea of the years KC and I had put in at the police department.

Before it was said and done, we were in Assistant Chief Joe Petrycki's office, along with Chief Keith Porch, Captain Shari Robertson, Captain Doug Noblet, Lt. Jason Bammann and Lt. Mike Napier. Needless to say, stories, laughter and good-natured ribbing  were in abundance. A little pang of nostalgia began to faintly glow deep in my chest, much like the coals of a beginning fire in the heat stove that sits in my living room here at Black Gold Homestead. And, just as in the stove, it would eventually glow white-hot.

Shari, or 'Sis', as I call her, joined us as we moved from place to place, after Keith and I first made a stop in the radio rom. Lewanda Curry was the lone person the two of us knew in the communications center and, being her usual self, smilingly chided us for not bringing her an order of hot wings. Apparently Lew has moved on from the apple-pie-and-ice-cream she used to ask for when I was a patrol sergeant back in the mid-90s. She's one of those bubbly gals who can eat anything and not gain an ounce.

Next stop was the detective bureau, where we found Dave Scheurer, still plugging away as he nears retirement; then it was into the elevator to the first floor. Would we even know anyone there anymore?

Of course we would, as we invaded the sanctum known as the traffic bureau. Sgt. Paul Lumadue was in, dealing with the ever-present myriad of tasks and complaints over parking tickets and faulty meters. Shari then led us pair of dinosaurs through the brown, electronically-locked heavy steel door into the patrol bureau; this was where things got a little weird. Nearly every face roaming those halls was unbeknownst to us, though Shari made sure to introduce Keith and I and explain that we'd been sergeants back in the day. She got into the routine of asking each officer, as we were shaking hands with them, what their badge number was, then telling them mine had been 135 and KC's 139. Those kids' badges ranged anywhere from the mid-200s to 313, the newest guy on the department. Talk about feeling ancient...some of those folks hadn't been born yet when the two of us were driving patrol cars and locking up mopes.

We ran into Tony Tambasco, who still runs the crime lab and was always a part of our Pittsburgh hockey trip crews, and Cindy Reed, a lab technician Keith and I had both worked with who still loves to laugh. Even Sgt. Andy Boor, who I worked with on night shift, made an appearance and it was great seeing him after all these years.

Stopping in Capt. Doug Noblet's office (he's the patrol bureau commander now) to chat a little further, I was shocked to see a guy who'd been on my afternoon shift squad in the late 1990s, now-Lieutenant Chad Brubaker, one of the funniest guys I know. I say 'shocked' because Chad had undergone an extensive body transition since I'd last seen him and had lost probably sixty or 70 pounds. Chad's the day shift watch commander.

On the way back to tour where the old jail had been, I told Keith we had to make a swing through the locker room. I wondered aloud if the linoleum that had been on the floor back when he and I had lockers next to each other was still there; you see, KC once had his revolver go off (that's how long it's been, we were still carrying Smith and Wesson 686 wheel guns) as he checked the firing pin function, a routine all of us did prior to holstering and hitting the streets. The accidental discharge caused his bullet to gouge out a chunk of linoleum before it ricocheted into the ceiling at the far end of the locker room.

It was still there, that gouge, and I had KC pose for a picture with it. He's taken a lot of good-natured heat due to that incident over the years and I just couldn't pass up the photo op.

A little further down the hall and a sharp right turn took us into the cell area....or at least where they used to be. Part of the jail had been merged with Tony's crime lab; it's also where we found Jerry Botdorf. Jerry started out as a dispatcher/police aide way back when; he took the city's civil service test for the police department, finished very high and, for reasons that are still a mystery to me, was passed over. That had to be a crushing blow, but I'll say this: he sure bounced back much higher than those who rejected him. Jerry went on to spend a career in the Ohio State Highway Patrol, rising to the rank of Lieutenant before retiring, then was hired by the city to run its communications center. He's since transferred to the crime lab. "Less stress", he laughingly told us.

The rest of the old jail had been converted to a gym area; the big 16-man cell, the felony cell and the women's cell were all gone. Both individual cells were still standing, now securing equipment used by special operations, and the stark, dank drunk tank was still there, with its concrete cots and floor sloped to a center drain.

KC and I both posed for pictures with Shari in the jail control room, which used to be called the 'inner jail', then strolled back up the hallway into the roll call room, where we'd gather at the beginning of a shift to go over incident reports from the preceding two shifts and bulletins and memos from the second floor. It, too, had undergone a transformation of sorts. The bulletin board was still there but our open mail boxes had been replaced by individual metal ones which could be locked. A large-screen digital monitor was mounted on a wall behind a small, elevated platform where shift supervisors sit while reading the reports aloud.

Being in that room, where every shift of my time at Mansfield PD started, brought back a flood of memories: Brian Kerr, a muscular Marine, darting from his chair and flying across the room after the praying mantis we'd found on the brick wall in the police compound crawled up out of his styrofoam coffee cup....he was scared to death of bugs. All of the jokes now-retired Sgt. Jan Wendling told. Lt. Billy Howard's yearly fall admonishment to be careful driving on wet, leaf-covered roadways because they'd be just as slick as ice. Capt. Dan Brant's ninety-minute long roll calls. Being disgusted when a fellow officer sitting in front of me obviously hadn't showered before work, as she had a thick, sweaty dirt streak on the back of her neck. Another officer (male) who had an aversion to soap and water, generally smelling bad. Being able to smoke in roll call. I could go on, but maybe that'll be for another blog post.

The last stop on our trip down memory lane was on the 9th floor, in Safety Director Lori Cope's office. Lori, a few decades ago, was an auxiliary officer who came in and rode patrol with me; we've been friends ever since. She was hired by the police department and served 9 years, I believe, before being forced into early retirement due to injuries received in a cruiser accident.

KC and I cooled our heels as we waited for Lori to return from a late lunch...and it was worth the wait. The three of us chatted and shared memories, both good and not so good, for I don't know how long. All told, Keith and I spent over three tremendously nostalgic hours in the municipal building, staying so long that we decided to have lunch another day.

And I paid the traffic ticket for overtime parking that was waiting for me on the windshield of my truck.

With Capt. Shari Robertson

                                                  Keith pointing to the damage he caused
                                                    With Safety Director Lori Cope

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

You Want Frustration? Apply For Healthcare As A Retired Cop

I don't want to rant here....but I'm going to. For those who'd rather not read angry words today, feel free to navigate to another page where there's sunshine, butterflies, rainbows and unicorns, because there ain't gonna be any of that here.

Having turned sixty-three on the 27th of last month and being retired through Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, the time of year has come where decisions need to be made concerning healthcare coverage, with the current pre-Medicare enrollment period ending after December fifteenth.

Last year, OPF decided to opt out of providing affordable (emphasis on 'affordable') health coverage for its retired members, changing course to a third-party vendor.

It was, and apparently still is, a disaster...especially for those of us under age 65.

This third-party vendor, Aon, made available a very short list of health plans to me, all through Medical Mutual; I couldn't go out and find my own plan, which would have disqualified me for a $685 monthly stipend to help cover premium costs, nor could I enroll on my wife's plan, provided by her employer.

I paid $1313 every month for healthcare in 2019, aided by the OPF stipend, but the coverage was terrible. The yearly deductible is $6500, and not a single one of my current physicians is in network.

"But that $685 a month from OPF..." you say? Well, that has a cap. These last three months of 2019 took $3,939 directly out of my rather shallow pockets. I'm retired on total disability, you see, and secondary employment would endanger my pension, so getting another job isn't an option. Besides, my lower spine couldn't take the added demands.

Which brings us to today.

OPF changed its rules regarding the stipend this year, I'm sure due to the howling of us retired pre-Medicare coppers and hose-draggers. Now we can go out on the open market...but our outside plans must be compatible with those outlined in stipulations set forth by the (Un)Affordable Care Act back in 2008. As an aside, back when that went into effect, my monthly premiums more than doubled; you know, so you, I and every other working stiff could pay for the healthcare of those streaming across our borders illegally and those in our population that are able-bodied but refuse to find gainful employment, choosing rather to remain on the generational government dole.

My current health plan's premium will increase to over $1500 a month in 2020, a plan that I didn't use at all in 2019. Everything was out-of-pocket; doctor's visits and prescription drugs. I skimped on my scrips in order to make a supply last longer and only saw Doc Becker twice, both times a six-month checkup for my diabetes. Other ailments that popped up, which should have included seeing Doc Becker? Nahh...

So, as our last few days of searching for something that resembles a decent health insurance plan (which, like the aforementioned unicorns, doesn't exist) dwindles from days to hours to minutes, I pause to wonder where this madness will end; why, after giving 31 years of my life to serving the public and putting myself in harm's way for the good of the citizenry, I can't afford my yearly December checkup with my cancer specialist. Why I have to endure pain of varying degrees daily in my metal-reinforced lower spine, metal knee, shoulders and hands, all due to on-the-job injuries. Why I can't afford a nine hundred dollar invoice that comes with getting pain-relieving injections in those hands and shoulders. I have to sleep in my recliner nightly in order to sleep at all; can't sleep on my back or sides anymore.

It all just makes me want to throw up my hands and quit, stop the checkups and medication and take my chances. We all have a number attached to our lives, a number unbeknownst to us that, sooner or later, will come up.

The Good Lord willing, mine will be much later rather than sooner...provided He guides my bride and I to that unicorn healthcare plan.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I Am Amazed

Two weeks ago my wife was in Riverside Methodist's cardiovascular intensive care unit, a little over twelve hours removed from laying unconscious on an operating room table with her sternum separated and heart stopped.

Yesterday she helped me clean the house.

Nothing strenuous, mind you; dusting furniture, washing dishes and the like. Still, up and around, doing normal household chores.

She's getting back to being the Energizer Bunny. Never sitting still for too long, always doing something, but I am keeping a very close eye on her. Stacy is well aware that she'll yet have physical limitations for some time and knows not to overdo things.

I am amazed, both by modern medicine and my bride's ability to bounce back.

We were very fortunate on surgery day; the surgeon was able to repair her balky mitral valve rather than replace it entirely. I didn't particularly care for the possibility that she might have a pig's heart valve in place of the one God gave her.

Currently she's sitting at the dining room table, reading her morning devotionals while picking at a blueberry muffin and sipping on a hot cup of Tim Horton's black gold. Her home visit nurse stopped in yesterday, checked her over and was very satisfied with her progress; same with this past Monday's visit to her surgeon's office in Columbus.

One thing Stacy isn't happy about is her recent weight gain...a whopping four pounds. There's good reason for it, though: every day since she came home a mere four days after cardiac surgery, friends and family have stopped by and dropped off all manner of food. It either means she has a lot of people who love her or they were afraid she'd wither away due to my lack of culinary skills.

You can only survive for so long on bologna sandwiches and hot dogs.

We have certainly been very blessed throughout this chapter of our lives and will be eternally grateful to everyone who's made this journey with us.

God, my friends, is very good.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Absent For A Reason

You've no doubt noticed a paucity of posts on this page; for that, I apologize.

But there's a reason. Several, actually, but none more sobering than what I am about to share.

Our home, in which we've resided nearly a year now, has taken a lot of love and work to get it to where we want it, though we still aren't finished. Patience has truly been a virtue; however at times it seemed as though our projects might have been a little too much for us to handle.

Just getting it habitational last January was huge in itself. Our brick 1930 farm house, which had been the original dwelling for the surrounding acreage, had been empty for nearly two years. It had no heat, the water supply was negligible, yard and fields overgrown and strewn with any manner of trash and junk, much of the electrical system in dire need of rewiring....there was much to do.

To this point, we've done it. As I put this entry together, contractors are installing the exterior stove pipe for our coal stove, which will supplant propane as our primary heat source. The grounds are finally in the condition that I want, phase one of the landscaping is finished, the deck's been resurfaced and painted, all our vegetation has been trimmed and cleaned out, we've eliminated two low brick walls that held moisture against the foundation, the second bath upstairs is nearly finished, plumbing issues have been resolved...there's much more we've accomplished but I won't bore you with details.

Suffice it to say, we love our little slice of heaven south of the city, surrounded by corn fields and nature. It couldn't have been done without my red-headed angel of a wife, Stacy.

Later this week, Stacy will have her heart stopped so surgeons can repair it. I am scared to death.

Two years ago her physician informed us that she has a heart murmur, that it wasn't all that bad but he wanted to "keep an eye on it." Since then Stacy has been having irregular episodes of her heart pounding; not faster, just beating harder. She's also noticed that she sometimes gets winded easily.

We consulted with a cardiac specialist in Columbus, who ran another round of testing; the results were not what we wanted to hear. This specialist in turn passed Stacy on to one of his partners, whose specific skill is heart valve replacements. The bottom line is, he wants to repair the mitral valve, which controls blood flow from one chamber of the heart to another. Worst case scenario would involve replacing the troubled valve entirely.

As a result, she'll be placed on a heart/lung machine, during which time my angel's heart will stop working on its own while the problem is corrected, an evolution that may last in the ballpark of three hours.

It will be the absolute longest hours of my life. Please, if you talk to the Lord, ask Him to guide the surgeons' hands.

I cannot make it without her.


Monday, September 30, 2019

Overnight Rain Recalls A 37-Year-Old Memory

Having worked midnight shift for most of my career, I'm often up and around long before the rising sun colors the morning sky. This morning it was 0400; surprising, because most of yesterday was spent driving home from Easley, South Carolina after a 4-day visit with Mom, my sister Chris and brother Jim. I was exhausted, having began my Sunday at 0315; I also prefer driving during the very early morning, as there's no traffic to speak of and the all-night AM radio talk stations abound.

Drinking my usual cup of Tim Horton's black gold, I sat in my very comfortable old leather recliner, reading the bottom-of-the-screen running banner rather than hearing the talking heads on the twenty-four-hour news station that flickered on the TV screen; I keep the volume very low so as not to awaken my bride as she sleeps in our upstairs bedroom. The stillness was only broken by the soft snoring of my old pal Roscoe as he dozed on a blanket in Stacy's recliner.

It began to rain; it had been, off and on through the night, but this time the rain was a steady downpour, its volume heightened as it fell on the vast rows of corn that stand in the field across the road. I strolled out into the sun porch, where its north-facing, large window was partially opened, to better hear the rain's song as it fell on the orderly rows, the descending sheets visible in the light cast by a lone street lamp keeping silent vigil on the corner.

Standing and staring, coffee mug in hand, my mind's eye whisked me back to late spring of 1982, when I was but a young pup at Ontario PD, recalling a night very much akin to the scene just outside my window.

I had been at the State Patrol academy on 17th Street in Columbus, which sits directly across from the Ohio State Fairgrounds, attending a week-long course on traffic crash investigations. Believe me, there's nobody better at accident investigation than our State Highway Patrol and, as I weaved my white cruiser through the pre-rush hour traffic northbound on I-71, I wondered how I'd ever get to sleep when I got home an hour later; I was due in at midnight for my shift.

My rest was fitful, and a mere 90 minutes before the alarm went off at 2300 did I fall into 'true' sleep. Pat Benatar on Cleveland's WGCL jarred me awake, asking me to hit her with my best shot from my bedside clock-radio; I showered, shaved, dressed and crammed a couple of slices of turkey down my throat as I headed out the door a half hour later.

It was raining heavily.

Wonderful, I thought as I wheeled my cruiser into the rear lot of the old station/village hall on Park Avenue West. I'll have to remember to get my rain coat out of the trunk and also throw the waterproof cover on my eight-point hat.

No policeman ever, past or present, likes working in the rain.

I exchanged good-natured insults with the guys on the outgoing afternoon shift, read the radio log and checked my mailbox for messages as I downed a 12-ounce soft drink; finishing, I headed out to the cruiser and signed on the air in the steadily-falling rain with a simple "112, signal 2", wondering how I'd ever pass the time in the next eight hours. The rain would slacken traffic passing through the village which, at that time of night, had only Denny's Restaurant as an attraction, and I would be bored out of my mind.

How wrong I was.

At 0100 hours, a mere ten hours after successfully completing OSHP's accident investigation course, I was dispatched to a semi tractor-trailer versus car accident at the intersection of West Fourth Street and Rock Road.

It was a fatal accident, the very first I'd ever seen but, over the next three decades, far from the last.

As I slid to a stop on arrival, what I saw nearly overwhelmed the senses: the tractor trailer was just past the intersection, the rear end of the trailer blocking the westbound lane of Fourth. The car that was struck was twenty yards into a field on the northwest corner of the intersection, its back end sitting on the rear axle, as both rear wheels had been snapped off from the force of the commercial rig slamming into it as the car attempted to cross West Fourth in front of it. The right rear passenger area  of the car was crushed inward, two of its occupants milling aimlessly outside it, no doubt dazed by the impact. A female was screaming/wailing; Springfield Township fire and rescue apparatus, sirens blaring, rolled up, along with several firemen who arrived in personal vehicles, having responded directly to the scene from their homes. As I ran up to the car, mindless of the cursed rain and mud, a young female who'd been a passenger clutched my raincoat, screaming, "JIMMY'S NOT MOVING!"

The rain became torrential.

There had been four occupants of the car when the accident occurred, the crash resultant, I'd discover later, of the drunken teen driver's attempt at playing 'chicken' with the truck as it approached from the east. As the westbound commercial vehicle neared, the car's driver floored the accelerator and shot out in front of the truck, the rig's right front bumper striking the passenger side of the car just back of the door post.

'Jimmy', the sixteen-year-old right rear passenger who'd snuck out of his house after his parents had gone to bed, took a direct hit from the behemoth truck. He lay slumped to his left, a lone trickle of blood fleeing the corner of his mouth; aside from that, he looked as if he were merely asleep. Later examination by the coroner would find that he'd died of internal bleeding, caused by organ laceration when jagged broken ribs were driven inward by the force of impact.

One other passenger, if I recall correctly, suffered a broken hip.

The panting of Roscoe joining me on the sun porch broke that nightmarish memory and the events of the rest of that terrible, rainy night...

...and the thought that I would never again, for the rest of my days, be faced with similar horrors took its place.

For that, I thank God.