Here is the thing. Our neighbor, Bill, took his own life this past Monday. It’s sad on many levels. First, that he should have been so low and no one was aware. Second, that he saw no other alternative to solve his dilemma. Third, that we lost a good neighbor and friend. I could go on.

Police awakened our neighbor, Jennifer, at 11:30 in the evening and told her gun shots were fired next door. They said the entire cul-de-sac may have to evacuate. The officers didn’t know if the shooter was disturbed and inclined to shoot everyone or not. She called us at about 12:30, and, after telling the story, asked if she could come with us for the evacuation.

We looked outside and didn’t see the policemen with the assault rifles hiding in Jennifer’s bushes or behind my husband’s car. Hiding being the key word. After wondering for a bit if Jennifer was okay or perhaps had been dreaming, we went back to sleep.

The police called and awakened us at 2:30, telling us to get dressed and meet them at our back door. Kind and polite officers and volunteers took us, by circuitous route, to a local apartment clubhouse/office, where we remained until 6:00 a.m. under the cordial, caring, and watchful eye of a police captain.

During the waiting, we talked about Bill, hoping he was drunk and had set off fireworks. He was, after all, our neighborhood pyromaniac and resident adult bully, blowing off thousands of dollars work of fireworks every July Fourth. But he was also the guy who showed up with a chainsaw and removed a fallen tree after a wind storm, who employed young people, and who donated to the March of Dimes.

As time passed, we drank coffee, ate donuts or egg muffins, and heard progress reports on the captain’s radio. We knew when the special response team (SRT) broke the window and sent in the robot. We knew when the rooms were cleared, and we heard the report when they found Bill’s unmoving body. The captain said, “The outcome is not good.” We had a child in the group, and he continued in code. “The medics haven’t been called.”

The police escorted us back to our neighborhood at 6:00 a.m., where we watched the SRT in camouflage fatigues and a plethora of officers find their cars. Then they lifted the crime scene tape and walked us to our houses, giving us a clear view of the smashed front window of Bill’s beautiful home.

An hour later, I left for work. Again officers lifted the tape high enough for me to scoot underneath in my Mini Cooper.

The Coral Springs Police Officers treated our small, displaced group of residents with patience and understanding. I felt safe and secure even though the environment was out of my control, perhaps out of everyone’s control.

The neighbors are stunned, and we grieve. Forging bonds through phone calls and conversations in the street. We’re going to dinner on Saturday night to talk about Bill and the value of friendship. On Sunday, we’ll attend the wake together.

We’ve lost a neighbor and a friend. Someone who brought life and beauty to our quiet—except on July 4th—street.

More later. GEB 4-2-09