Bright Reds and Flashing Sirens


A different view of the inner city. Spring 2019.

A whirlwind of colors whizzed outside my desk window. They were the bright reds of fire trucks and the dizzying, flashing sirens of ambulances.

Is it safe to walk to my car? 

Usually I don’t feel anxious about my commute, despite working in the “rough” side of town.  But those emergency vehicles had lingered for quite some time.

Walking to the water cooler before heading home, I considered what might be happening around the corner. Waves of reluctance washed into my head, as I clutched my steel bottle.  “Do you know why those ambulances are still outside?” I asked a coworker on her way out.

“My friend just texted me to see if I was okay.  It was a stabbing,” she replied.  “Be careful. See you tomorrow.” Her gray curls bounced as she walked. Having worked here forever, this stuff probably didn’t even faze her.

Clutching my keys in my hand, my eyes scanned the street. My feet hurried till I reached the refuge of my car.

Unsure if the perpetrator had been apprehended yet, I drove a different route home, away from the crime scene.

~ ~ ~

“Did you hear about the shooting?” my friend asked, just a few days later. “It was not far from here…just a few blocks from the grocery store. ”

My eyes widened.

“Yeah…there were a lot of people there and a lot of shots fired. I heard about it in the news.” Her son, a middle school-er and one of my language class students, filled in the gaps.

“When I was house hunting, I almost bought our house in that neighborhood too. But my friends warned me, there’s a lot of violence there.” She shivered.  “But this is right near the main park… where children play. I can’t believe this.”

~ ~ ~

The next morning, I unlocked the medication cabinet to restock some meds.  My coworkers chatted behind me, sharing about their weekend.

“I thought it was fireworks… then… the scattering…the police…”

My hand stopped midair and I nearly dropped the keys.

It wasn’t just in the news.

“What if my kids had been there? What if…?” we asked one another, our worries blocking us from moving forward down the hallway.

We shook our heads, then continued with our work.  Like it was just another day.

~ ~ ~

Needing to escape the frenzy of the clinic, I took a walk for lunch.

Why am I still here?

Clear blue skies and soaring seagulls were accompanied by a symphony composed by the inner city.

I left a really good job to come here. 

High pitched humming and deep rumbling bass of the bus at the intersection.

The streets seemed safe…

The staccato clicking of strollers being pushed by doting moms on cement sidewalks.

These patients come here because they have nowhere else to go.

Wait.. what’s that instrument? I looked across the street.

July 2003

“God has created me to do him some definite service:
He has committed some work to me, which he has not committed to another.
I have my mission… I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good. I shall do His work.

-Cardinal John Henry Newman

I have a mission.  I will graduate with a nursing degree in a few years, and I am certainly not going to let it go to waste.  I will provide people… another chance at life.  I want to offer hope when there is none left.  I will try to ease the pain in someone else’s suffering.  I want to share with others the goodness and grace of Jesus’ love.  I hope that God will use me for His glory. 

Looks like I’m standing still…but I’m moving forward.


From his wheelchair, he played his harmonica serenade with confidence and clarity.  A sweet melody, bellowing out, from the roughest of places.

I smiled and returned to the clinic’s double doors.


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