A lot of things sound like the flat “crack” of a pistol shot. In fact, a semi-automatic, fired quickly, sounds like firecrackers if you’re not too close, the way an approaching tornado sounds like an oncoming train.
These are useful things to know if you live in Fall River, or in a Nebraska trailer park.
The difference is that the tornado is what some legal documents call an “act of God,” while the gunfire is entirely man-made, unless you believe that God did such a poor job of making people that we are doomed to kill each other with an increasingly complex series of weapons, from a piece of wood or a rock, and eventually to the atom bomb, with the pistol being somewhere in between.
There was, of course, a response, as there must be if a shooting isn’t in a lousy neighborhood.
Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia, standing in front of a courthouse for the second time in a few months, told us he doesn’t like shootings. He must have been overjoyed to be standing in front of a courthouse talking about someone else’s problems.
There will be some extra cops walking foot patrol in the area, at least for a while. Overtime money will be used. In general, there is no human disaster that doesn’t create overtime for someone. This is as true for janitors as it is for police officers. There was also a big police vehicle parked downtown, a vehicle containing all the wonders of the Bat Cave, and maybe a bag of overtime money to be deployed in case of emergency.
Of course, you’re not really supposed to talk about the overtime, not when it’s time to “come together as a community,” and maybe even “start a conversation.” Talking about money is rude at times likes this, although spending it isn’t.
The “gun play,” which is a newspaper phrase meaning “shooting a gun,” took place on South Main Street and, as soon as the crackle of small arms fire died away, people began talking about that part of South Main as either “the business district” or “the heart of the city.” “Business district” is a Chamber of Commerce phrase that last accurately described downtown in the 1960s. “Heart of the city” has no relation to anything on South Main Street. In fact, if a street with a courthouse and Government Center is really the heart of your city, then your city has damn little heart.
Hardening of the downtown arteries has been going on for a long time, and we use downtown to store people you don’t want out in the neighborhoods. The elderly. The disabled. Lawyers. Criminals. Politicians. The perpetually blindsided folks from the elections office, some of whom might jump in front of a bullet if they saw one coming. Anything to get out of certifying signatures every couple months.
Some of those people get to go home at night. Some don’t. The ones who don’t are (or should be) the heart of this story, but they’re not. If the gun play had happened at night, when hundreds of elderly and disabled are sleeping in the high rises, the news coverage would have been small enough to stuff into a fortune cookie.
The overall message you get from this is that you must never shoot a gun anywhere if you are likely to hit a lawyer, or anyone who works for the government. Blowing off a couple rounds on Second Street at 2 a.m.? No lawyers. You’re good. Squeezing off a few in the Business District in the afternoon? Lawyers. You’re not good.
At the end of the gun play day, the lawyers, the cops, the reporters, the mayor, and the government employees all went home.
And in the Academy Building, the elderly and the disabled locked their doors, and looked down on the empty street, where there were no more promises being made or kept.