As we drove to church yesterday morning, we witnessed a crime in progress. I caught a quick glimpse of a man running down a side street to our right holding a woman’s purse in front of him, its long strap flapping.
The certainty that he had just stolen this purse and was running away from his victim was so apparent that my eyes followed his trajectory backwards–and sure enough, a young woman was sprinting across five lanes of traffic in the middle of the block, crossing our bow at an angle, headed toward that side street. Jerry had to slow to avoid hitting her. I urged him frantically to pull over, saying we had to go back, turn around, follow the man who jsf taken her purse.
My first impression of the young woman was that she must be a champion sprinter. She had the world’s longest legs, attached to a slim body in excellent shape, beneath a face with beautiful features. It was like watching Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the 1984 Summer Olympics all over again. She was not obviously distressed or crying out “Stop, thief!” But she was utterly focused on catching this man–and if anyone could, she could, though he had a block-long head start.
I wanted to drive down the side street and stop the man somehow but we had already passed it. (It was only later that I realized we could have backed up.) We couldn’t agree on what to do. It turned out Jerry hadn’t seen the man, only the woman, and had no idea what I was talking about. He waited for traffic to clear so he could make a U-turn. Both figures had disappeared by the time we were able to drive down the side street where I had seen them.
In the sliver of time we’d been given–my seeing, within the same second, both the perp with stolen goods in hand and the victim in pursuit–we hadn’t been able to do anything. I thought about this woman all day, feeling it strange that I was bonded to her, her experience and her range of emotions, while she didn’t know we existed. Wondering if she had been aware of the white couple pulled to the curb and watching as she ran past, and if so, whether she thought us uncaring.
We didn’t even think to call the police at the time. Things were happening so fast, I thought, what could they have done after the fact? We hadn’t seen the mugging itself, I couldn’t describe the man’s face, and Jerry hadn’t even seen him. I called today and they said I should have called 911 right away; they would have made it a priority to check out the area.
I guess the sliver, that one glimpse, was provided us so we would pray for justice, for the thief not to prosper in any way from his crime, and for the woman’s life and identity to be protected.
But I wish we could do it over and I could think clearer faster.