What if one fall night, you and your child decide to go on a walk, like other nights, around your neighborhood. What if nothing happens but just fun memories and bonding time over discussions of chicken nuggets and the most recent episode of P.J. Masks. What if, on Friday, October 13th 2017, Peter and I decided to go for a walk and spend some quality time together. What if we just wanted to go see the Halloween decorations of people’s houses in our neighborhood of Glendale, NY. (Glendale is a quiet neighborhood in Queens which is one of the outer boroughs of NYC.) Crime is low here but nothing could have prepared me for what was going to happen that fall autumn night. What if, nothing went as planned.
On that night, we were walking back from one of the neighborhood houses that is famous for their Christmas decorations and also for Halloween. Our neighborhood is usually very quiet with the exception of local traffic but on that night I sensed and heard from the back of car screeching down the street going very fast, then I heard a pop. Immediately my left side under the shoulder blade was burning. I was shot. At first I thought I was shot with a gun so I grabbed Peter ducked behind a car for protection and I asked him, in pure panic, as I was taking off my fleece jacket, "Am I bleeding?" Peter replied, "No Daddy". I did notice a little bit of paint on my jacket and thought it was odd. Pure panic did take over us because we heard the car screech around the corner again for a second time. We hid behind a van as they slowed down and then sped off again. We had to walk home five blocks very fast because we were both afraid. We didn’t know if our assailants were going to try for a third time. We were terrified.
We found out that two young adults, ages 19 and 22, were firing off frozen paint ball pellets out of boredom at random people. They were caught by the police. There were 10 victims in all including a two year old boy who did get hit with the paintball. There were 2 who were badly injured. One was hit in the head, who ended up with a concussion and one in the neck. The person who got hit in the neck reported the license plate to the police that night which helped the police to arrest them. They are old enough to know what they are doing. Their intent was to injure or hurt strangers in their neighborhood. No one was safe not even a child.
The next day it really hit me hard, "What if?". What if I was hit in the head and dropped to the ground unconscious or dead and my son, Peter, was screaming, "Daddy, Daddy!!!" Would my son know to pick up my cell phone and dial 911 or my wife? "What if?" they hit my son injuring or killing him. Would I forgive myself for taking him out that night or would I be able to live life without him if he was killed. "What if?" we were both shot down to the ground. Would I be able to keep calm for the both of us. "What if?" it was a real gun. What if?
A couple of things I think about constantly is "What if?" I was not involved in my son's life. "What if?" I didn't discipline my son. "What if?" I didn't teach my son to respect others. “What if” I didn't show my son lots of love. Would he turn out to be like these two guys who shot me? This shooting might not have happened if their parents would have been more involved. I am not blaming their parents because some times a child gets caught with the wrong crowd but most times it is a lack of parenting. I hope it is not the case.
One thing I did learned from this experience is that I was not prepared like I thought I was because I panicked which made my son panic too. I do blame myself for this but you never know how you are going to react in this situation. Another thing I learned even more is that I really do cherish every single moment I have with my son. This grew stronger because of the situation.
As parents we will always have “what if” moments, but in this case, I learned how to better react to our scary “what if” moments. Peter and I have recovered from our frightening night; however, our bond and father and son couldn’t be stronger because he knows I love him and he loves me.
Update.... The two that were arrested took a plea bargain which gave them 10 hours of community services. I am not happy and my wife is livid.