This knee-weakeningly beautiful late summer day, we Jingos took ourselves to Gettysburg, PA, to get our Civil War on.
It's odd, me being the John Mobberly buff, that we've never done this. It's quite close. We've been to all the big ones in the area -- Harpers Ferry a million times, Manassas, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg -- but never Gettysburg till now.
It's a very humbling place, and my intention had been to post up a sober photo essay on the battlefield. That will still happen; however, something else came up that I've got to get off my chest first.
You can't walk the whole battlefield, it's just too big. (That's one of the humbling things about it, really, imagining this entire stretch of land, from Oak Ridge to the Devil's Den, completely covered, like ants on a rotting apple-core, with thousands and thousands and thousands of men whose sole intent is on killing each other as efficiently as can be done.)
So we bought a CD at the Visitors Center; it contained a narrated automobile tour of the battlefield. We set off to do the tour, but only got about a third of the way through it (that narrator was one prolix son-of-a-bitch) before we all began to succumb to the crankiness that accompanies a rumbly in the familial tumbly.
Abandoning our tour with the promise to continue it another day, we drove into the extremely charming town of Gettysburg. We found a street that promised some passable restaurants, a sort of bohemian street with coffeeshops and hippie-tchotchke emporia. Just as I found a good parking spot and was about to pull into it, I glanced down an alley to my right and saw an absolute brigade of policemen, very much On the Job: They were keeping out of sight down this alley, it was plain, and looking at a particular address with grave purpose on their faces, racking shotguns, readying truncheons, gripping shields.
Holy shit! I believe I said. I'm an excellent example for our children. Look!
I pulled into the spot on two wheels. If it's actually possible to peel rubber while parallel parking, I did it. I really wanted to see what was going to go down. So, once they'd glimmed the circs, did the Fam.
We leaped out of the car as the phalanx of policemen stormed quite literally past our bumper and across the street. They bashed a door in, and piled into the residence, a three-story walkup, shouting lustily, as is the policeman's wont.
(At exactly that moment, a young man was entering the door immediately to the left of the raided house, a small grocery shop. The look on his face as he took in what was happening was utterly priceless.)
Only at this moment did it occur to Johnny Tourism that I had a perfectly functioning digital camera in my hand. So (discreetly, ever mindful that policemen rather object to having their photos taken while in performance of their duties; something about putting their souls in little boxes, no doubt) I began snapping away.
At first there was not much to see. My camera, though a very nice one, has the failing that it cannot penetrate walls.
After a very short while, though, I saw this appear on the roof of the house next to the raided residence. The raided house is the brick one, to the extreme right of the frame. The girl has plainly gone up a fire escape in the back of the house and gotten to the roof, and her intention is to do a Jason Bourne number and get out on the lam:
Be careful! I think I shouted. Incorrigible ghouls though we Jingos are, I had absolutely no desire for me -- or, God forbid, my children -- to watch a woman plunge to her death down a slippery roof. A policeman came out from an alley behind this house, and we all shouted to him, "She's on the roof! Look up! She's on the roof!"
We did this, I like to think, not because we wanted to rat out this panicked girl, but because we were genuinely afraid for her safety. I had a crazy thought of running across the street to break her fall, if need be.
John Law took over, and issued the most insane order I have ever heard from a First Defender: Go back to the window you came out of!
I actually yelled at him. No! No! She just crawled over that dangerous roof! Find a ladder! Don't make her crawl back! I wasn't trying to usurp his authority; I was trying to increase his fund of knowledge so he could make a better decision. I had seen that girl crawl across that roof. He had not.
At this point, Mr. Law decided that he didn't need hecklers, thanks very much, and ordered us sharply to vacate the street. This we did, but not before I got a few more surreptitious snaps. Sorry about the focus on this one. A few of Mr. Law's colleagues:
The girl disappeared from our view as we were following Mr. Law's orders. I got this last shot of her:
We Jingos, our store of adrenaline refreshed quite nicely, thanks very much, wandered down the street toward the restaurants. We stopped and looked back many times, but there was nothing more to see. As we got to the town square, a prowl car passed us. The girl's morose face gazed out the back window.
Thank goodness you're safe, honey.
If I had been advising the young lady on escape strategies, I might have advised her to stay on her own roof, behind whatever chimneys or HVAC equipment might be up there, and make herself very, very small. They were probably after her dope-dealer boyfriend, not her. Once they'd gotten him and vacated the premises, she could have crawled back in, older and quite a bit wiser.
Not that I'd know.