When I was in the fourth grade, leaving my younger brother’s baseball practice across our small town of Monroe, North Carolina, my father was in line to pull out of the parking lot when we heard “firecrackers.” We next saw a baby blue Aerostar van backing rapidly down the street in front of us with an open sliding door and splayed, anonymous arms firing an automatic weapon. Sparks. Some smoke. (I later learned that) our windshield cracked when we crossed paths.
GET DOWN, my father commanded. And I heard him curse — a first: DAMN IT, DAMN IT. I remember how hard the floorboard felt. Scratchy. I had never laid there … why hadn’t I?? Why would I have? Ok … there, just right … Snap back. I remember folding my hands, praying — and thinking I should be praying. Sharp turns as a sharp smell entered the air. Metallic. The car was moving, and I was not necessarily sure we were going any particular direction. We turned around. Our speed eventually reached steady state. My next memory is miles across town, when my father told us we could get up, crossing the bridge, approaching downtown and the police station.