Wednesday, June 25, 2008
We had a little bit of Baghdad come to Bay Ridge last night after a car blew up around the corner from my home.
It was around 11:30 pm as I was getting ready for bed. I had recently come home from my adult swimming class—the last one of an 8 week program—when I heard a massive thud, as if something had actually struck the house.
I looked outside, saw nothing and went to bed. I was just getting comfortable when I heard sirens heading in my direction and a low flying airplane buzzing over my roof.
As it turned out, the airplane had nothing to do with the car explosion; it was just a matter of some rather funky timing.
But that sound made me shudder as I recalled standing across the street from the Trade Center on September 11. Ever since then, I always tense up when a plane comes in too low.
I got out of bed, looked out the front door and saw several people on the block had come out of their homes, too. Then I saw a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky from the next block.
“Oh my God,” I shouted, convinced a small plane had crashed in Lief Erickson Park.
It was almost midnight, I was tired, and I had to work the next day, but I wanted to know what the hell was going on. After five years as a police reporter, it's hard to shake the urge to chase after fire engines.
I stopped a guy coming up the block who told me a car exploded on 67th Street.
I kept walking as other people fell into step around me. I realized that although we live on the same block, I barely recognized any of these people, so saw calling them “neighbors” feels like a stretch. There’s nothing like a disaster to get people together.
I turned on to Sixth Avenue and the smell of burning rubber hit me, just like the old days on the Pocono Record. It's usually the smell of a fire that reaches you first before you actually see anything.
People were on the corner staring into the park and when I reached 67th Street, I saw the firefighters hosing down the burned-out frame of an SUV. An ambulance was pulling away without the sirens going, so I assumed no one had been injured.
A car parked behind the SUV looked like it had taken a beating and the firefighters were trying to push it back out of their way. I used to play ball in this park, which was ravaged during last year’s tornado. The place is having a run of bad luck lately.
I walked up to a guy leaning against a No Parking sign and asked him what was going on.
“That car got blown up,” he said. “I saw the whole thing. I saw a young guy, like a Russian or something in a blue warm-up suit running away from the car just as it blew. He looked at me and kind of smiled and then he kept running. I followed him for about half-a-block, but I don’t want to get involved.”
As he spoke, the man stressed that he didn’t want to get involved, but he kept telling me more details.
“If someone had been injured,” he said, “then I would tell the marshals. But this is a fucking insurance job. I don’t want to get involved. What if they catch the guy? Then I’ll have to go to court. I don’t want to get involved…”
We talked a little while longer and then went our separate ways.
I was thinking the man should give the description to the police, but I’m not the one to be giving civics lessons.
What if this was a gangster’s beef or some other kind of scam? Who needs to get wrapped up in that kind of grief over an SUV?
Yes, I should have told the man to contact the police, but I didn’t want to get involved.