|By Drew Moody|
For the Hur Herald
Much of the day Sunday was preoccupied with thoughts of 'not driving'
a car, as I had been for much of the previous 16 hours or so.
It was an uneventful return from a tremendous Tom Petty and
Stevie Nicks concert in Virginia. Uneventful, that is, until my
wife and I reached Weston.
Take it literally when I say I believe there are times when we all have the
ability to experience moments of "heightened awareness." Even
our seeming infinitely poor choices will not ultimately diminish our inner
So at about 1:30 p.m. my wife and I arrived at the Weston Sheetz
store on Route 33. Our journey was nearly concluded.
I was intent on filling up my coffee mug. As I crossed the store I strolled
past a woman I'd never seen. She appeared to be in her late-30s.
I immediately "felt" something was amiss with her. Inner alarms went off. I
scanned the store, attempting to piece together an invisible puzzle. I correctly
connected her, I discovered later, with an obviously anxious or angry man at the
opposite entrance. I sensed danger.
Right…I can hear your thoughts. This is a fellow who's lacking drama in
his life and has an inventive imagination. A conspiracy theorist….
As my wife and I paid for our coffee I quietly told her something was
wrong, offering a warning there may be problems in the store. Because she's
seen these types of events play out many times, she trusts my intuition.
I explained I'd fill her in when we returned to the car. Meanwhile, I kept
watching the pair, waiting for something to happen.
Within seconds after returning to the car I glanced in the rear view mirror and
saw the man again, now outside the store. He was yelling at a young woman -
a new character in the unfolding drama.
The man grabbed the slender young lady by both her arms shaking her violently.
He was about 6-2, 200 pounds; she was 5-5, maybe 100 pounds wet. The image
was most unpleasant; she looked like a lifeless rag doll.
Her neck was thrust back and forth with such force it looked like it may
break. He did this repeatedly. Violence often escalates quickly in
these types of situations.
I exited the car, paused for a second and headed directly to a
pay phone, dialing 9-1-1. I paused only long enough to decide the
situation, at that juncture, didn't warrant a direct confrontation with the
perpetrator. I did locate a weapon (cases of pop) if I needed to
forcefully stop his assault.
"What is the nature of your emergency," the operator asked.
I explained the situation and requested police respond immediately.
I was also wondering, if he would do this in plain sight what might
he do to her in private?
In less than two minutes a Lewis County sheriff's deputy entered
the lot and blocked the van from exiting its parking space.
He briefly questioned the occupants. They apparently denied the
incident occurred. Since there was no blood and no victim
complaining, he let them go.
I walked over to Deputy Clayton, a thoughtful young man, and
said, "If they told you nothing happened they lied." And
then (I guess) the magic words, "I'm willing to testify in court."
To his credit, and my great appreciation, he jumped back in his
SUV cruiser and chased down the suspects on Interstate 79. The
West Virginia State Police arrived at the scene and took over
that part of the investigation. Deputy Clayton returned to obtain a witness
report from me. The deputy said after he stopped the
suspects the second time they admitted the assault had indeed
In the deputy's absence I had canvassed the store for additional
witnesses, and the sympathetic store manager reviewed
surveillance tapes for potential evidence. The matter will now
unfold itself as it will - in court or otherwise.
Besides my wife, there were other witnesses. But no one came forward.
No one else attempted to call 9-1-1. No one, aside from the Sheetz store
manager, offered help. The Sheetz location was literally packed with
customers at the time. As many as 35 people may have seen this act
A secondary, but genuine, burden playing like a subtext to this
drama is the individual and collective non-action. Why?
Later I asked my wife if I had metioned I was calling 9-1-1 when I quickly
exited the car. She said, "No, I just knew you were going to do
She had confidence that I would indeed "do something."
I've been put in a similar position many times in my life.
In three of those cases it may have been a matter of "life and death."
But I always DID SOMETHING. I have never elected to be a passive
witness to an unfolding tragedy.
What is the nature of circumstances challenging our willingness
There are at least two points to be made here.
One, a plea to at least consider not being a mute witness to injustice.
And secondly, reverberating a fact that I believe we too often
forget - we can "make a difference." One voice can indeed turn into
a chorus. The concept incorporates the direct opposite of a "going along
to get along" attitude.
I've been blessed by having many great teachers, despite me being such
a poor student.
There are a few basic concepts echoed throughout the ages.
One is to try to remember the suffering of one person is also humanity's
collective suffering as well. It's been restated many ways. The concept
applies equally to our friends and foes - including divisions crossing national,
cultural, and religious borders.
The same principle directed at parents, suggests we should strive to care
as much about what happens to a stranger's child, as our own. And, the
kicker - anything less is a reflection of selfishness. Now there's a challenging
one to get your arms around.
One individual went as far as making the radical suggestion we should
strive to be ever concerned for the least among us, putting them even before
our own self-interest.
If qualities like these are worth aspiring to, then those principles create a
background for us to examine our unfolding life-masterpiece.
As you paint your masterpiece, readying it for show & tell in a future
day of reckoning, what changes might you want to make before the canvas
Maybe if we were less caught up in our own dramas, we'd realize we're
all flawed and "needy" on some level. And, there are times when
we all need help.
It could be your neighbor, a stranger or an innocent child.
But it's much easier to talk about conviction than to live it. Or, discuss the passion
of your beliefs without being burned by them. An Indian medicine woman once
put it like this, "It's not enough to talk-the-talk; you've got to walk-the-walk."
More convenient still is vicariously witnessing a tragedy on television, saying how
awful it is, while ignoring worse events just across the street.
Some tragedies are just waiting for a counter-action to end them. Maybe waiting for
you to call 9-1-1? Waiting for someone to stand their ground, even if it comes
with a price. Don't be fooled, silence has a price too.