I speak for every resident of this city who has faced the terror of imminent danger and dialed 911. There is nothing more reassuring than the voice of a calm dispatcher who says officers are on their way within seconds.
This was the situation my wife and I faced Sunday night. We live in a peaceful, wooded neighborhood that bespeaks tranquility. But that peace was broken a week ago when a neighbor arrived home while burglars were ransacking her house. The intruders fled. As this news spread through the neighborhood, everyone began to think about their own homes: Are we secure? Can burglars get in our house?
The answer to those questions became crystal clear Sunday night. I went to bed shortly after 9 p.m. My wife stayed up a few minutes more and then went to the hall bathroom, which has no outside windows. Half asleep, I heard a rap-rap-rap sound several times. I was about to ask my wife what she was doing to make such a noise, but the noise stopped, and I began to drift off to sleep.
Then: "Are you up?" my wife called from the bathroom. "No," I said. "Why?" "I hear footsteps."
I am not physically able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I can tell you that my launch to fully upright was an amazing physical feat. As soon as I reached the hallway and looked toward the kitchen, I could see a pool of light from our neighbor's security light, and there was someone's shadow on the floor.
Instantly, I knew an intruder was either already in the kitchen or trying to get in through the window. I yelled to my wife, "Someone is breaking in!" and ran to the kitchen. A man was outside the window. The screen was half off. He was pounding on the window, trying to push it in. The phone, which I so desperately wanted in my hand, was in its cradle just a few feet from the window. To get to the phone, I would have to come face to face with someone trying to break in.
As I bolted for the phone, the man outside the window saw me and jumped back several feet, stopped to assess his options for getting out of a fenced backyard and ran off to the side of the house. By that time I had dialed 911 and was talking to the dispatcher. She said officers would arrive shortly. I looked out a front window and saw a patrol car. Only a minute or two had gone by. I was shaking like a leaf, both from fear and from relief. I looked out the window again. More patrol cars. I had never seen such a beautiful sight.
The police quickly apprehended two suspects -- on bicycles -- but had to let them go because I could not positively identify the would-be burglar. Fortunately for the police, however, the man left fingerprints and DNA all over our window. "We're not CSI," one officer cautioned. "It will take weeks to get this evidence processed." But, he assured me, the case was a "home run."
I don't know what police officers are paid, but Sunday night I know they more than earned their keep.