All of us have our injuries in life — the type of encounters and events that made an impact or altered the course of our life. The wounding event that rocked my world came in 1986 when my neighbor and dear friend Sadie was shot and killed on the street before my building. When I was a young reporter living alone in Brooklyn, she was owner of the dry cleaner next door and had been like a surrogate mother to me.
On the morning of Oct. 18, 1986, I heard six shots and looked out my fourth floor window on Union Street. Sadie lay faced down, bleeding and crumpled, on the footpath. I flew down stairs having a jacket over my sleepwear, racing on a burst of adrenaline. Sadie was dead, as soon as I got downstairs.
Someone on the street told me the police were called for so I stood there and stared hints of life — for anything. I simply did not understand what to do. Soon folks swarmed on the block out of the buildings. Cops came. They place yellow caution tape around her body but left her there for hours. I had been stunned by the strong red blood that pumped from her body to the road. It never seemed to stop. I did not comprehend why they just let her lay there, outside in the open, for all to see. It broke my heart to watch her son drive up and see his mum there. Then I watched her boyfriend drive up and scream, “Who did this to her? Why is she setting there?” For the reason that instant, I recalled how joyful Sadie was, in her sixties, that she met a fellow who was good to her and “good with the buck,” as she would say. My heart broke after I saw the anguish, yet my eyes were glued to the scene as if staring at her would bring her back. I’d never seen anything like this other than in the movies, and had never even seen a dead body; it seemed unreal to me that she’d not only get up and walk back into her store — where I would see her nearly every single day, for seven years.
Word soon came that an elderly neighbor supposedly shot her for some bizarre reason: he thought she’d put egg on his car included in some pre-Halloween rite and he had religious beliefs that were very superstitious. He seemed to be such a quiet, unassuming guy, who did not say much and smiled a lot. He was a retired electrician and my landlord had sent him to my apartment only two weeks before to mend some issues that are electric. And today, my pal Sadie was gone, and neighbors who watched the horrifying scene were saying he killed her. He went into her dry cleaning shop and began to shoot her that morning. He got her in the trunk although she attempted to run from her shop.
Her body hers and lay between my front door. Eventually, later in the day, they put some covering her around. It did not shift the dreadful sight of blood pooled in the street and covering the sidewalk. When her body was finally removed by the ambulance I do not understand.
I did not want to depart. I needed to remain close. However, the man I was dating at the time came to get me and supported me to visit my mom’s house in Queens. From the very next day, after I returned, there was a body outline in yellow where Sadie had fallen. Dried blood stained gutter and the road. Policemen had put police crime scene markers around the entrance of her company, too. Someone had left blooms. Although it is rather common, this was the first time in my own life an offering left in a crime scene had been viewed by me. And it was just feet away from my front door.
To create matters worse, the local community newspaper — where I was once a staff reporter — came by to shoot photos and also the horrid scene was emblazoned on the front page in brilliant colour the following week. That only added more pain and trauma to the times that followed.
Particularly when I need to leave and enter my home for weeks after, I was devastated and depressed. In the eye of my mind, I really could still see Sadie at night, I dreamed about her. Because I relived the trauma daily, my house felt dangerous. I was tortured by the loss they experienced and anguished over her family along with the memory. I might see them in her dry cleaning shop, attempting to sort things through. Her death played over and over like a video within my head. It got to the point when I was away from my house, that the searing memories merely decreased — so I stayed away from home as much as really possible.
I began to stay or sleep over in the corporate flat at the business I worked for. I threw myself into a new relationship with all the person who “saved” me from the crime scene that day. In hindsight, I just didn’t wish to be alone. He moved into the flat with me but, nevertheless, pictures of this violent death I’d seen tormented me, and that I grieved
Only annually after Sadie died, my relationship ended. I sublet my low rent Brooklyn apartment since I just cannot stay there anymore, and moved to Manhattan. Space made it easier, because each night, while walking into my house, I didn’t have to see that pavement, but the memory was never really far away.
Trauma Had Not Been Talked About
No one really mentioned post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or trauma back then so no one actually understood what I had been going through.
I still had a lingering fear as well as depression that began that fateful day in October, despite the fact that I entered therapy. Years later, after I used to be a seminary student in 1999, I went back to Brooklyn to try and release the fear connected to the memories that had harassed me. Accompanied by means of a pal, I returned to the scene of the function and allowed myself to re-experience it. Standing there, it was as if I feel and could see it occurring again. I wept. I grieved. And I said my good byes and left a flower for Sadie. Next, I left a word for Sadie having a religious icon I knew she related to and lit a candle and went to a nearby church. Although I understood nothing about injury interventions back this instinctive rite actually helped me heal. I ‘d later discover that what I did was known as a “reenactment” and a “symbolic letting go.”
By letting myself to revisit the site of the passing of Sadie, and feel the feelings that I experienced that day, is a kind of exposure therapy. Someone who has been traumatized or who has a phobia can work it through by immersing in it and releasing the anxiety and danger from the encounter. It’s a way of honoring the past and freeing yourself to proceed.
Although I wish more support like this was available when I was working through the trauma of seeing violence unfold before my eyes many years ago, I am happy to understand that therapeutic strategies like all these can be found to aid individuals who have gone through personal and private injuries, together with those who have lived through or been influenced by the public traumas we are subjected to everyday.
Read Laurie Sue Brockway’s associated post, 8 Ways to Mend From Injury and Depression.