At just after 11.30 am today I walked out of a house toward my car. I heard the 'tak'tak'tak' of a helicopter overhead.
Ever since living in Israel I do not like helicopters - they always seem to be forerunners of something unfortunate - bringing in wounded soldiers, or here in California bringing in victims of coastal accidents, road accidents, or looking down on some clandestine action.
I looked up - they were police helicopters, so I knew something was 'going down.' My thought was to drive down San Pablo Avenue to a new coffee shop I had seen. It was 11.38 am when I turned on the ignition, exactly time for traffic and weather. The broadcaster announced the trouble spots, then said that in Richmond there was a situation going on at 39th and MacDonald (exactly where I used to work) and all the blocks had been cordoned off. No word of what the situation was. The coffee shop wasn't that close to MacDonald so I decided to go. I kept listening to KCBS, and sure enough I heard that there was 'some kind of a hostage situation.' I thought of the Health Clinic, the courts, Familia Unidas, WIC, the things I knew in that area. Then they said that a reporter was on his way to the situation. Before I returned to the office I heard that a woman suspect had held five people hostage at a nutrition center, as yet there was no explanations of what had happened.
Of course I told our AA as soon as I got in, "great" she said, just what Richmond needs now. Was she out of Vitamin C?"
When I went to the program the physical therapist had just come from a middle school in that area, and had already told everyone what she had heard, which was the same as I had heard," a hostage situation." What is so sad is that none of the staff were particularly shocked - they all said the same thing. "Things are crazy, people are desperate, it is only going to get worse."
Yes, there is a general feeling of desperation. On Friday I visited a little girl I had worked with. Her family were the first I knew to lose their home, at the end of 2008. Their home was in North Richmond, not exactly a wonderful area, but it was their home, and they loved it. They moved into a drug infested area because they found an apartment they could afford. Since they have been there there have been major shootings in the area. It is an open area drug market on the streets outside.Of course the matriarch wants to move. She works, her husband works, and his sister who lives with them works, but they have a hard time coming up with the monthly rent, let alone all the other necessities. A wall in their kitchen is black from mold, and the tiles and flooring around it are spongy. The little girl has asthma, the adults have been sick on and off with respiratory problems. They are hostages. Many of the families I work with are hostage to their situations, and so, no wonder there has been a hostage situation in a women and children nutrition center.