Out of the Tunnel (2 of 2)

By Helen Gerhardt

I didn’t look away, willed myself to wait for the sergeant to speak as the T lifted us upward out of the North Shore Connector tunnel.

“The police are human, very human,” the sergeant said, “I’ve most surely been on the end of it.” He looked aside again, into some painful memory.

I thought of Richard Carrington, coming home to Pittsburgh after fifteen years of military service to dedicate his life to ending violence in black communities, to building public safety. I remembered the pain and anger he expressed at finding himself repeatedly on that wrong end of the use of police force, treated as though he were an insurgent in his own neighborhood, along with his sons.

Just so, Brian Johnson’s service as Air Force firefighter could not be seen on his black face by the police officers who had stopped him just a few blocks from his home, on his way to volunteer at the local emergency room. The exam he had just taken for the Pittsburgh Police Academy could not be worn as a shield to protect him from being forced against a wall, without any apparent cause, without any explanation afterwards. Twenty years later, as retired black Pittsburgh police homicide detective, he told that story to help shine a light on the causes of community mistrust of the Police Bureau that he had served for two decades.

The sergeant had paused as the T now soared above the ground, watching my face, maybe needing more than neutrality to risk saying more. He knew he was speaking to a white woman who had been a sergeant in the Army National Guard. I thought of my own unnecessary use of force against an Iraqi civilian – I remembered the smile on that brown face fading away into terror.

“Yes, I know the police are human – I’ve been on that other side of a weapon.”

The sergeant’s face changed – what seemed to be a softening, maybe concern for what he saw on my own face, maybe a different set of memories pulling back another way.” A war zone is different, now. Everything’s different in a war zone. You know you’re just trying to survive – the rules aren’t the same.”

“I know I saw a lot of people’s lives get wrecked, for no reason. I know I helped with that.”

“Yes. I saw a lot of that, too. But we didn’t have a choice. We were just trying to survive. ”

I thought of all the police officers and their lawyers that I’ve heard speak of such fear for their lives as motive for the use of force, of how many times I’ve heard Homewood described as a sort of war zone.

The sergeant seemed to be claiming a special pass for us, as veterans, as distinct from police officers, based on our own greater cause for terror.  But such fear could not explain what I myself had done in Iraq, as it did not explain the behavior of the police who had frisked their fellow citizen Brian Johnson, forced up against a wall although he had presented no sign of threat. Such exonerations could not apply either to the behavior of our military at Abu Ghraib, or to the behavior of the state troopers who had stopped Richard Carrington and his passengers without cause and ordered them to strip down to their underwear on the side of a public highway without the least scrap of evidence of wrong-doing.

“I still think we’re the greatest country on earth,” the sergeant said.

“I think we’re as great as we act. And we haven’t been acting so great, these last years.”

“Yes, well that’s true. That is true.” He paused. “But you got to remember who we’re fighting, now. Baathists, Taliban, ISIS, they’ve killed all those innocents, all those babies…”

We’ve killed so many babies,” I broke in, “so many children. So many thousands.”

“Yes.” The sergeant replied with gravity,with pain. “Yes. I killed babies myself. Yes.”

We sat in silence together, rising and slowing with the T as it approached the Allegheny Station.

“But that was a war zone.” Again he claimed the difference. Maybe the defense was the way he held onto life despite what he’d done. He had come so far with me in honesty, in such a brief space in time. I had neither suffered or inflicted as he had – did not bear the level of grief I could hear in his voice. I could not bear to challenge him again, to cause any further potential damage to any foundation for survival he had built.

I reached out my hand to his. “I’m Helen.”

He took my own hand, held it, looking gravely into my face, told me his name, then said. “Most folks call me Sarge.”

He paused. Kept looking me full in the face as people flowed around us, as we remained seated together. “I’ve earned that.”

I nodded.

And we went our ways, he to his daughter, waiting to pick him up at the station so they could cook a meal together for their family, and I onto the Citizens Police Academy graduation, knowing that our conversation had touched us both to the quick, had touched on the root of the contradictions and tensions that I had felt during my own deployment, and on the root of the kinship I felt with the police.

Citizen’s Police Academy – and the School of the Streets

Today is the first day at work for our new Police Chief, Cameron McLay. Our Mayor Bill Peduto has accomplished one of the primary recommendations of the Public Safety Transition Team, the hiring of a Chief with a demonstrated commitment to respectful community policing.

Building relationships is at the core of Mr. McLay’s ideas for solving most of the bureau’s problems. He said “bridging the divide” between officers and the community will be one of his top priorities. …officers in his words, should “police like human beings, not let the badge become the barrier.” (Liz Navratil, PPG, 9/6/14)

If Chief McLay is to be successful, his efforts for such bridge-building will need to be both closely watched and actively supported by community members from the other side of the divides – we must work to connect both with the police as fallible, respectworthy human beings and with our fallible, respectworthy neighbors across the many chasms that too often fragment us from each other and our common concerns.

Most of the police officers who patrol our streets are Pittsburgh’s grandchildren, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers – raised in a city that has systematically discriminated against black men and women and children for generations, the city that has been called “the  Mississippi of the north.” Too often their behaviors under the extreme stresses of policing quite simply reflect how they were raised, how the larger wheels within wheels of institutionalized racism that continue to grind on at all levels of community life, on the streets and in the halls of government.

Like Chief McLay, I’m a transplant to Pittsburgh. I came for a nonfiction writing degree in 2006, determined to recount my yearlong Vanessa painting at the Art Housedeployment as a soldier in Iraq back in 2003-2004 but was pulled back into the present by the struggles I saw going on all around me. Those struggles all too often echoed what I had witnessed in a war zone, as I perceived that even the most responsible and engaged of Pittsburghers were often treated as though they were insurgents rather than potential partners in protecting and serving their communities.

I was very impressed by Chief McLay’s forthright acknowledgement of his need to study the Bureau of Police and to meet with community groups before he made specific recommendations for change.  I must also work to bridge the still-enormous chasms in my own knowledge of this community that I’ve come to care for so much. This blog has been the beginning of that work to study both Pittsburgh’s history and current life – and I will continue to meet for conversations with my fellow Pittsburghers who from both outside and inside the Police Bureau are striving to understand how we together created our current situation and how we might together take better care of each other.

Last week, I began a new chapter of that study as I attended my first day of the Citizen’s Police Academy. When Sergeant Eric Kroll, supervisor at the Police Academy asked us to introduce ourselves, I was struck by how many of my fellow Citizens lived in the ring suburbs, and was particularly surprised by how many of them were real estate agents or real estate brokers – why that might be I will most surely be asking and thinking about in future posts. None of my fellow students were black. And almost all of them expressed the wish to become better informed citizens. Sergeant Kroll presented an overview of the departments we would visit and what we would be taught about in the fifteen weeks of the Citizen’s Academy:

  • History of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
  • Introduction to the legal system/criminal justice system: overview of the PA Crimes Code, Vehicle Code, Rules of Criminal Procedure
  • Use of force: laws, policies, and procedures that regulate a police officer’s use of force
  • Emergency Operations Center
  • Pittsburgh Police Intelligence Unit
  • Citizen Police Review Board
  • Police K-9 unit: role, training and utilization of police K-9 dogs and handlers
  • Traffic enforcement
  • Special Weapons and Tactical Team (SWAT)
  • Firearms Tracking Unit
  • Office of Municipal Investigations
  • Crime Scene Investigations
  • Animal Law Enforcement
  • Explosive devices: detection and responses
  • Narcotics Unit
  • Safe vehicle operation
  • Firearms safety

So much valuable information to learn and cover, but no mention of three areas that continue to dramatically affect policing in Pittsburgh and that I will continue to research alongside the official syllabus.

Today is Chief McLay’s first day on the job. It is also the day that black citizens across Pittsburgh wait for a verdict in the Leon Fordcriminal prosecution of Leon Ford. That extreme use of force happened three blocks away from my home on Collins Ave in Highland Park, at the corner of Stanton and Farragut, where Leon Ford was shot and paralyzed. That shooting happened just two blocks away from the elementary school where so many of my neighbors kids learn about real life, most certainly not just from books, but by observing adult behavior of all sorts..

I’m sure I’ll learn so much that is highly valuable, both from them and from the police officers and officials who teach our official syllabus. But it does seem clear I’ll also have to keep learning in the school of the streets to hear the fuller story that my neighbors have to tell.

Conversation with Richard Carrington: Part II: My civil rights aren’t as important as your civil rights?

Richard Carrington on far left, serving on CPRB in 2007

Richard Carrington on far left, serving on Citizen Police Review Board in 2007

As our fellow Pittsburgher who does not feel safe in his own home streets, in Part II of our recorded conversation Richard Carrington had far sharper words to share both with fellow citizens and our Mayor. As former CPRB board member, he spent years confronting the systemic reforms needed to hold police accountable and to retrain our public servants in the most basic respect necessary to keep the peace. Carrington addresses the nationally publicized cases of Jordan Miles and Leon Ford which represent a far wider pattern of civil rights violations and police brutality that have become all too common here since the consent decree was lifted in Pittsburgh.

And he tells stories of his own painful experience of aggressive and humiliating racial profiling that should be heard in his own voice, the story of his own refusal of a command to strip on a public highway during a police search that he had given no cause for. He describes his feelings when he was unable to protect his own son from being searched on the streets of his own neighborhood, pushed up against a wall, backpack torn open, books thrown on the ground, while Richard was threatened with jail for trying to intervene with a question. Richard Carrington’s controlled rage and concern should ring in our ears.

My civil rights aren’t as important as your civil rights? And you want to know why I won’t cooperate…? I won’t cooperate with you because you don’t treat me equally. And if you want me to treat you with respect, treat me with respect…Do not get it twisted. I know the need for police. I know the need for law and order. I also know the need for equality and fairness. We don’t have it out for the police. The police have it out for us. And we’re responding to them.

Many of Carrington’s personal stories illustrate Law Professor David Harris’ warnings about the patterns in which plainclothes squads in unmarked cars often act in far more violent and disrespectful ways that depart from all normal police procedures. Such concerns have been echoed from police themselves, heard here at the blog in my conversation with retired police detective Sheldon Williams and shared even more publicly by current Zone Two commander Eric Holmes. Leaders from the Coalition Against Violence met with Holmes and Carrington reports…

…I haven’t seen anybody as forthright as that Commander… This man gave us…a block of information that literally stunned us, that he does not believe in these jump teams, that he would prefer they be removed, that they would at least be under his command so he had some say-so….

Tonight Pittsburghers will travel from many neighborhoods to a city-wide meeting to hear our Mayor speak about our public safety.   Carrington challenges both elected City officials and many prestigious black community leaders to come out from behind the buffers that protect them from the demands of community members for change and from the direct experience of the streets that they are supposed to help protect. He challenges us all to look in the mirror and to “work together with one common cause to pull ourselves up from this struggle.”

Audio of conversation with Richard Carrington, Part II  25 minutes

COMPLEMENTARY OVER AT THE PITTSBURGH COMET: Bram Reichbaum’s interview of Jerome Jackson, director of Homewood’s Operation Better Block, who, like Richard, has also been dedicated to “clothing, feeding, education, mentoring” – to caring for children as a “communal responsibility.”

 

 

Conversation with Richard Carrington: Part I: How do we keep our children safe?

IMG_20140310_133233Posted by Helen Gerhardt

Over the twenty years since he returned home to Pittsburgh from military service, Richard Carrington has dedicated most of his life to ending violence in communities decimated by poverty, by the War Against Drugs, by systemic racism and by a brutally inequitable justice system and industrial prison complex – by pressures that too often pit men and women who should be allies against each other, sometimes to the point of mutual murder.  As member of the Coalition Against Violence, as partner to the Black Political Empowerment Project, as former member of the Citizen’s Police Review Board – and as a frequent target of racial profiling by the police – Richard has dedicated much of his life to building personal and systemic accountability within the black community, in the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, and in the larger political framework of our mutual choices. He has just been appointed to the interim land bank board, reflecting the awareness that violence, blight, poverty and vacancy are all deeply interrelated, deeply reflective of a system that has often violently exploited, neglected, and abandoned black communities

When so many fathers have been sent away to prisons for nonviolent drug offenses, tearing apart the fabric of families and neighborhoods, many young men and women have called Richard Carrington, “Dad.” As the daily practice of mothering is inseparable from Joy Kmt’s activism and artistry, so Carrington’s days are fired and shaped by fathering. He has directly cared for multitudes of young Pittsburghers, not only through the organization he directs, Voices Against Violence, but by providing them his own home, his direct guidance, his tough love, his affirming respect:

…safety comes through example of “You matter to me. And because you matter to me, I will do whatever I can to make sure that you know that you’re safe”…the example of simple protection, concern and care, consistency….They know that the struggles come…but they have somewhere to come at the end of the day where nobody’s going to be belittling them, nobody’s going to be tearing them apart, nobody’s going to be exploiting them…

Few people are willing to give so much – in a field known for high burnout and self-protective professional boundaries, Richard speaks of how and why he has been able to so directly father so many neglected, traumatized youth scarred by abuse, violence, systemic poverty and Pittsburgh’s deep-rooted racism:

…I often tell people I wake up in the morning and I go about the business in the direction that God has pointed me in. I do it with the best of my heart…I simply have to follow the path…and what gives me an advantage over a lot of people who try to delve into this field of serving underprivileged and underserved and abused youth, is that the end of every day God releases that day’s activities from my mind…so when I start tomorrow…I’ve already forgotten what took place yesterday: I did it, I served the need, and I move forward and so I’m not dwelling on what happened yesterday – so I don’t have a lot of build up inside of me of 25 years of all the..negativity and corruption and just belittling of our kids. I don’t deal with that, I deal with their issue for today and I move on when tomorrow comes…

Most simply put, Richard is driven by a sense of mission. As he once risked potential death in his military service, he now lays his day-to-day life on the line in service to his mission to obey the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  And his mission has borne fruit – he has seen almost every young person who has lived in his home complete high school, go on to college, and then commit to careers, to families, to community, to life. Voices Against Violence has had similar, clearly practical successes, with stunningly high graduation rates:

Everything was built around taking them to the next level, allowing them to see their future before we ask them to participate in it. Most of these kids can’t see their future…We teach them the importance of an education and that knowledge is power in the world that you live in. And unfortunately, whether it’s a good bad or a bad world, it’s the world that we live in. You have to adapt to your surroundings.

As with Joy Kmt’s wide-ranging explorations and reflections, what Richard shared in our conversation was too large to fit within the bounds of any clear cut compartment or topic – this audio post will be Part I, just nineteen minutes of the three hours he so generously shared with me, and of the days and months and years that he shares with his community – and his kids – our kids.

Audio: Part I, Richard Carrington the father (Nineteen minutes)

 

Conversation with Police Chaplain John Welch: “The streets of Homewood or the back roads of Iraq?”

Nate Harper and Police Chaplain John Welch

Former Police Chief Nate Harper and Police Chaplain John Welch in 2011

As the news of the sentencing of former Police Chief Nathaniel Harper has broken across the city of Pittsburgh, we might do well to consider the interlocking networks of irresponsibility and mismanagement and corruption that a far larger, long-standing system made possible.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Police Chaplain John Welch about his own concerns and perceptions of the drastic reforms in policing that need to be made. He said, “Nate Harper had a strong heart for the community.” Our former Chief certainly seems to have betrayed his own good intentions. Although he’s done much good for the community, the temptations to personal profit and neglect enabled by our current policing systems seemed to have proved stronger than his heart.

But is it constructive that it is mainly Harper that is currently bearing the fullest brunt of formal legal consequences, even as the larger problems in our policing system continue with sometimes grievous impact on our most vulnerable communities, on men and women and children that are too often treated as though they were insurgents rather than Pittsburghers?

A couple of days ago on Essential Pittsburgh our new Mayor Bill Peduto laid out his intentions for Public Safety reforms, noting that healing the breakdown in police-community relations must be a central priority of both Public Safety Director and a new Police Chief. As both Law Professor David Harris and Police Detective Sheldon Williams underlined in earlier conversations, repairing that long-time breach means deep systemic and cultural change within the Police Bureau, not just a change in Chiefs. While John Welch asserts that the Mayor must take a crucial leadership role, he also argues that no one man or woman or Mayor can make these changes alone. Welch calls us all to account to put pressure on both the Mayor and all our elected leaders who must exercise checks and balances on police power.

Welch notes the negative impacts when the Fraternal Order of Police resists such oversight and accountability, with special note of the cases of Dennis Henderson and Jordan Miles. And he emphasizes that we must address the far larger networks of racism, inequitable power, exploitative privilege, and poverty that literally weave matters of life and death every single day in Pittsburgh.

“I actually think that the word democracy is evaporating from our lexicon,” Welch said, “… Money is buying Washington, it’s buying Harrisburg, it’s buying Grant St…” The only antidote, he says, is for all of us to take responsibility.

Audio of conversation with Welch: 24 minutes

Audio: Police power over life and liberty: “…the most powerful positions in our society…”

By Helen Gerhardt

Sheldon WilliamsRetired Police Detective Sheldon Williams still finds himself speaking in the present tense when he reflects on the responsibilities of a police officer. He has served the City of Pittsburgh as a paramedic, SWAT Team member, certified bomb technician, WMD/Terrorism Coordinator, and as a trainer in the Police Academy for nearly every skill taught.  He continues to serve Pittsburgh and all of Pennsylvania as Emergency Management Specialist in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

As a former member of the Integrity Unit, he still feels “burdened” by past corruption and by continuing misuse of the public’s trust in our police forces.  As a black officer, he has seen the impacts of the whitening of the police force. Williams applauds many of the directions that Mayor Bill Peduto has committed to, and offers his own expertise and experience to the continuing effort to make those promised reforms a reality.

He has also witnessed the power of the Fraternal Order of Police to stand for the basic rights of its members, but also to resist civilian oversight and directives to change that are vital to public safety. Although he himself served many secondary details for extra money, he suggests that our “consumption-driven society” has motivated many police to take on roles that are not in the best interest of public safety, with overwork and stress leading to poorer performance, defensively aggressive behavior and ethical conflicts of interest.  Such conflicts of interest thus far seem to have continued under the present administration, with the FOP defending both secondary details and moonlighting.

Williams points out these extras sources of income are often justified by officers as recompense for one of the lower police bureau pay rates, for some of the most difficult work in the country. But, too many times, Williams has also witnessed the impacts of stress and lack of adequate staffing in vulnerable communities that need police support the most, as well as a lack of basic respect toward civilians that is likely to escalate the danger for all – this conversation bridges to many of the observations of police behavior made by artist and Homewood resident Vanessa German in an earlier post.

Williams and I spoke about how hard it is to address needed changes with fellow men and women who lay their lives on the line every day, who too many times are given special license by the public to abuse their power because of the physical courage that they demonstrate. He agreed to speak with me because: “My heart’s desire is to participate where I can make the most useful contribution(s) for police/community relations.”

Audio recording of conversation with Sheldon Williams:

Public Safety: Vacancy as Vortex

By Helen Gerhardt

This past Sunday, I bundled up in many layers against the cold of the polar vortex and walked over to Larimer, from my row house rental on Borland St., down East Liberty Blvd, left on Frankstown, left on Lowell. I didn’t take a bus to where I was going. I wanted to walk alone through streets that are riddled with vacancies, empty houses, empty churches, empty businesses, empty lots. I needed to walk on foot through the larger scene of two deadly crimes, one last year, one last week.

Window 2I needed to look at this window, again, after a full cycle of seasons. Very early last year, in the first few days of January of 2013, I stood on the other side of that glass, inside the apartment. I stood and looked at a pool of dried blood under the Christmas tree that had not been taken down. I looked at the larger pool of blood near the window, where a few nights before, the police had briefly spoken to man who was not quite yet a murderer through the thick panes of glass.

Further inside, farther back, away from the window, unseen, a woman waited for the help she had called for.

But before I write about that night, about the many years of choices and layers of systems that helped set the stage for that particular shooting of a friend I loved, before we consider the particular reasons for the murder of Hosea Davis by assault rifle just a little over a week ago, just around the corner from this spot, I think it is important to listen to his cousin, Michelle Gilmore, as directly quoted in these two new stories I’ve linked to.

“People don’t understand the struggle we deal with every day, living in the inner city, hearing gunshots every night. There’s not an easy night that somebody can sleep,” Gilmore said. “Different gunshots, like, every hour. We just want the violence to stop. You’re tired of burying your kids, you’re tired of violence every day, you’re tired of murders being unsolved…Till you live in our area and know how we feel, can’t nobody walk in our shoes. People have no respect for human life these days. It’s got to stop somewhere. We need to take back our streets. We need to stand up and take our kids back.”

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Empty lots everywhere.

It was important for me to walk through the physical streets where Michelle Gilmore said those words. I needed to pull back and look at those physical vacancies that reflect a larger vortex of choices and consequences, a deeper poverty of root and branch, a long-time corrosion and corruption, not only of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, but of the very fabric of what we sometimes too lightly call “community” in this city.

Abandoned church, broken windows.

Abandoned church, broken windows.

In her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote about some of the causes of corrosion and vacancy, I see all around me here in Larimer, the combination of fear and detachment that I hear in the voices of the neighbors along this block when I ask about the murders, of my friend, last year, and of Hosea last week.

Abandoned home, former owner deceased.

Abandoned home, former owner deceased.

….Today barbarism has taken over many city streets…It does not take many incidents of violence on a city street, or in a city district, to make people fear the streets. And as they fear them, they use them less, which makes the street still more unsafe…

…The barbarism and the real, not imagined, insecurity that gives rise to such fears cannot be tagged a problem of the slums. Nor is it illuminating to tag minority groups or the poor, or the outcast with responsibility for city danger. There are immense variations in the degree of civilization and safety found among such groups and among the city areas where they live. Some of the safest sidewalks in New York City…at any time of day or night, are those along which poor people or minority groups live….the public peace – the sidewalk and street peace – of cities is not kept primarily by the police, necessary as the police are. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, an enforced by the people themselves….the problem of insecurity cannot be solved by spreading people out more thinly…

Blind eyes painted on the walls of abandoned church.

Blind eyes painted on the walls of abandoned church in Larimer.

…A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted street is apt to be unsafe….there must eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to ensure the residents of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs of blank sides on it and leave it blind.

“The basic requisite for such surveillance is a substantial quantity of stores and other public places sprinkled along the sidewalks of a district; enterprises and public places that are used by evening and night must be among them especially. Stores, bars and restaurants, as the chief examples, work in several different and complex ways to abet sidewalk safety.067

“First, they give people — both residents and strangers — concrete reasons for using the sidewalks on which the enterprises face. 

“Second, they draw people along the sidewalks past places which have no attractions to public use in themselves… Moreover, there should be many different kinds of enterprises, to give people reasons for crisscrossing paths.

“Third, storekeepers and other small businessmen are typically strong proponents of peace and order themselves; … they are great street watchers and sidewalk guardians if present in sufficient numbers.

“Fourth, the activity generated by people on errands, or people aiming for food or drink, is itself an attraction to still other people. (Jacobs, 30-37)

I can’t know if a thriving neighborhood with watchfully engaged neighbors and regular small business traffic would have made the difference in the continued life of my friend, or of Hosea Davis. But as I considered the well-being of other friends, neighbors, and co-workers in other neighborhoods facing similar challenges of vacant, abandoned, and blighted properties which are tied up so closely with overall public safety, I resolved to pay close attention to the recently introduced legislation for a land bank proposed by City Councilwoman for District 7, Deb Gross, evidently partly informed by Transition Team recommendations which assess such legislation as one of the best chances for bringing such properties back into circulation, and back to shared life.

I was tired after looking at that window from where the police stood and talked to Anthony Brown through the glass, far more tired than my short walk through the snow would have explained. I decided to take the bus back home. As I caught the 82 Larimer, the bus driver spoke to me with notable concern and welcome: “Take your time, now, and be careful,” she said as I stepped through the thick snow at the curb, out of the bitterly cold vortex into the warmth of the bus. I stood with her a moment, told her I was writing about the needs for change in Pittsburgh, traveling across the city by bus to hear people’s concerns, ideas, hopes.

I didn’t tell her about my current focus on this general Transition Team topic of Public Safety, but her response met the weight of my own memories and concerns halfway. “Here on this bus,” she said, “I try to do whatever I can to make people feel safe. I want them to feel safe on here, wherever they’re coming from, wherever they’re going.” As she took me back home, again and again she spoke with people she’d come to know over many, many days of taking them to work, to school, to shop, to church, to all the necessities and pleasures of life and back home again. She asked about what was going on with them, how their families were doing, how their jobs were going. She watched and responded to what was happening on the streets she was driving through, commented to the passengers standing at the front of the bus. Again and again, as they got off, she said, “Take your time, stay warm, be careful now.”

When I got off the bus, I felt safer.

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