LONSBERRY: How a Little Girl Came to Have a Bed Tonight


 The drug house is next door.

 

               But they didn’t shoot up that house, they shot up Raymond’s house.

 

               The one they moved into just a month ago. On Maria Street, in the city of Rochester. For a year and a half they lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Mom and Dad and Grama and the three girls. For a year and a half while they saved money and waited for someplace to come open.

 

               This place is a dream. Four bedrooms. Bathroom and a half. Free-standing house. Eleven-hundred dollars a month rent.

 

               Raymond works 60 hours a week to cover it, and he swaps the car with his wife so she can go off to her job, too.

 

               They are black skin and blue collar, with red, white and blue values. Joe and Betty America, making their way, chasing their dream. Building a better world for their kids.

 

               The 12-year-old was in the front bedroom, the one facing the street.

 

               The bullet came through a wall and another wall and sprayed plaster across her face. She was on an air mattress. The bullet ripped through it two inches from her head. Other bullets struck the house, at 5 a.m., mostly vectoring upward from the street, toward the bedrooms on the second floor.

 

               Raymond heard the noise and ran toward it, awakened by an attack on his home, trying to find the threat to his family. He checked to make sure everyone was ok, and came out onto the sidewalk, and saw the blue and white turn hard onto Maria Street, the Rochester Police Department coming to help.

 

               About an hour and a half later, the overnight duty officer, a captain named Tauriello, sent out a report on two incidents from his watch, both of them shots fired into houses. The one from Maria Street included a reference to the popped air mattress.

 

               And that got people thinking.

 

               About a 12-year-old girl who almost died, and who didn’t have a bed to sleep on.

 

               A 12-year-old girl on the honor roll, who had never been absent or late, until today, when she just couldn’t bring herself to go to school.

 

               Greg Bello is a lieutenant with the police department, and at about 8:30 he was on the porch, knocking on the door, come to see what the family needed. By then there was an offer of a mattress and box springs, from Jamestown Mattress. Hegedorn’s had put together food to fill the family’s cupboards. A firefighter’s in-law, who works at Sleep City, had called to say the boss wanted to donate a bedframe and headboard. Palmer’s would kick in some meat for the freezer.

 

               Bello coordinated it all, and the Rochester Fire Department reached out to help. And at quarter after 2 the new bed was in the back of a firefighter’s personal truck, in front of the station on Hudson Avenue, and a few minutes later – after coming back from a jumper call – Engine 16 rolled west to Maria Street.

 

               In the second seat on the right was Patrick Rutledge, who broke out of the ranks as the department marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year so that he could take a knee before a green-eyed nurse on the sidewalk and ask for her hand. They met on a call when there was a small electrical fire in the ceiling above a break room at the hospital. She was walking out and he was walking in and now they are walking together.

 

               In the second seat on the left was Mike Saddler, who has been a firefighter out of the Hudson Avenue house for 45 years. Before that, he delivered the newspaper to the firemen at the station, and before that, when he was seven, firefighters from the Hudson Avenue house saved Mike and his two younger siblings when their home caught fire and they were trapped in an upstairs bedroom.

 

               Mike handed his sister to a firefighter on a ladder at the window. Then he handed over his little brother. And when the fireman reached out to take Mike in his arms the little boy shook his head, and said he would climb down the ladder himself.

 

               And he did.

 

               And at about 2:30 he and a small scrum of firefighters and police officers wrestled the mattress and box springs out of a truck, picked up the frame, and walked in a line in the snow to the bullet-riddled house on Maria Street. The captain was there from the police section, and Bello and a couple of officers, and the firefighters from the Hudson Avenue house, taking care of their neighbors.

 

               Raymond let them in and up the stairs they tromped, putting down their loads and tools and quickly setting to deciphering the bedframe instructions and determining which nut went on which bolt. As the firefighters worked, by the bullet hole in the wall, Raymond stood in the tiny landing atop the stairs, with the captain and the lieutenant, grown men who’ve seen it all, heartsick at a world where a 12-year-old isn’t safe asleep in her own bed.

 

               At a certain point, recounting what had happened, as he mentioned his sleeping girl, Raymond stopped talking, and stepped behind a wall, and wept. A man who works 60 hours a week. A man who provides for his family. A man who would fight to keep his family safe. A man, like the ones in city uniform, who just wants peace.

 

               But maybe that’s not something the police officers and the firefighters can guarantee. Maybe they can’t always be there. Maybe, in these sad times, they can’t give peace.

 

               But they can give love.

 

               And they did yesterday. People who deal in death and loss, who see the broken and the brokenhearted, who fight it and carry it around with them, showed a little girl and her family that they were loved.

 

               It’s just one girl, and it’s just one bed.

 

               But it’s who this city is.

 

               Who this city really is.


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