Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This Mourning is Getting Regular

Albany is a small city.

At 11:20 on Monday night, I was sound asleep. I heard nothing.

I know a lot of people in my neighborhood, but I didn't know Richard Bailey -- even though he lived a block away from me.

South Lake and Yates Street -- I pass by often. Very often. Two blocks from home. It's on the way to the Number 3 bus and the Number 4 bus, and glorious Washington Park. We often dribble a basketball down South Lake as we head to the park to shoot hoops.

Last night my daughter announced she wasn't walking to the school bus stop alone any more. She had been going solo there for a while now because I'm always running behind in the morning. And because she's 9 1/2 and there are no streets to cross. It had seemed a good building block towards independence. But Richard Bailey was murdered in our neighborhood, very close to our house, and I was picking up what she was putting down. Even if she hadn't made that announcement, I'm sure I would have walked her there myself this morning.

Still, my daughter's fear is heart-breaking.

Albany is a small city.

I came here from downstate as a SUNY student -- just like Richard Bailey did. I've walked alone on Albany's streets -- in this neighborhood, and in other neighborhoods -- late, late at night.

This morning, I had an appointment downtown. I took a candle with me and some matches. When I got to the spot on South Lake where Rick was shot, there were two burning candles, and some that had gone out in the rain and the wind. I tried to light my candle, but the matches didn't work. I decided to leave the candle at the spot, and I'd bring some better matches by later.

When I got on the Number 3, the driver, who used to take me to work every day, asked how things were down the block. Of course I knew what he meant. Quiet, as usual, I told him. We talked about how we're each grappling with this. He told me that Albany had always been a pretty safe city - that fifteen years ago, when he started this job -- these kind of things were really unheard of -- and now, along his route he's passing a number of serious crime scenes fifteen times during his workday. I told him that I came here as a SUNY student, and he said, "Oh, so you really relate to this," I replied, "Yes, I do. It resonates with me -- just as Kathina Thomas resonated with me in May -- and Jamaz Miller who was shot in broad daylight on Judson Street less than two weeks ago resonates with me." I told him I thought there was a growing problem in this city, and we really need to deal with it. He agreed.

A few hours later, I caught the Number 3 going in the other direction. I don't really know this driver. We had an almost-incident not too long ago. I didn't like the way she was talking to a middle school student who got on the bus without a bus pass -- the student said the school hadn't issued one yet, she told him if he didn't have a pass the next time he got on her bus, he'd have to have a dollar. She has a job to do, of course -- but I didn't think it was necessary to speak in the tone of voice she elected to use... and I got up to say something to her about it. She saw me coming, and told me to sit back down. I let it go. Today, she was talking with another passenger about Richard Bailey, and how sad it all is. They talked about how he should be graduating school in January -- how he wanted to be a police officer. The driver threw in her two cents about what the problem is, "Too many kids with parents who aren't raising them together. Too many single mothers who have to work and can't be home with their kids," she was saying. When I pulled the rope to signal I was getting off at Madison Avenue and South Lake, she said, "Oh, you live around here," with an air of sincerity -- we exchanged looks of hopelessness.

When I walked by the candle I had left at South Lake near Yates Street, it was burning.

Kathina Thomas was killed sixteen blocks from my house.

Richard Bailey was killed two blocks from my house.

Albany is a small city.

As many before me have said, and as I told the Common Council on June 2 -- this has got to stop.


Emma said...

Very powerful. Thank you.

tixie said...

Well said, love. Well said. Heartbreaking.

belleshpgrl said...

I live on the corner of Madison and Quail in the building with the big white pillars. We're next to a church and my boyfriend said we'd be okay parked next to a church, who would do anything there? I pointed out that Richard Bailey was shot two doors from a Mormon meeting house and a Quaker meeting house.

I just don't understand. I'm scared to leave my home in the dark, even if it's only 8pm. I used to walk down to Lark or up to Cafe Madison. I don't want to anymore. The senslessness of it all frightens me and I don't know what to do about it.

Neighbor, you aren't alone. What can we do?