My brothers and sisters have settled far and wide across the United States. This makes it hard to get together due to the cost of travel and hotels.

My mother bought a small condo that is somewhat central to many of us, and has invited us to use it to reduce expenses as we travel. It is in a warmer climate than we have here, so she also spends quite a bit of time there in the winter. She said that one of the biggest reasons for her choice of location was that it was also in a nice, peaceful neighborhood.

Recently our family had to travel to the south, and we scheduled to use Mom’s condo. We couldn’t leave until the children got out of school, so we found ourselves on the road late at night, with expectations to arrive there around midnight. When we finally pulled onto the road where her condo is, we found the whole place in chaos.

Streets into the subdivision were barricaded by police barriers. Around 40 patrol cars were there, along with a SWAT team command center. In the shadows of darkness, armed SWAT team members were moving stealthily from bush to shrub to tree. Huge spotlights filled the night, shining on the different buildings.

As we pulled up to the police barricade, I rolled down my window so I could talk with the police officer. He was quite terse. “Where are you going this time of night?”

“We are planning on staying at my mother’s condo.”

“Which building is it?”

I pointed at the building that lay about 25 yards ahead of us. He glanced at it and then turned back to me. “I suppose that is far enough away from any trouble, and we have the problem contained. Just get in and stay in!”
I asked him what he meant by the problem was contained, but he only growled at me to just move along.

As we pulled into the parking space, people came running down the street in our direction, carrying children bundled in blankets as if they were fleeing a war zone. My wife, Donna, turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t a hotel be a better option?”

I assured her that the police would not have let us in if they didn’t feel it was safe. “Remember, he said they had the problem contained.”

We hurried into the condo, and I made a few more quick trips to retrieve the essentials we needed for the night. Donna was busy making sure the blinds were closed and that everyone stayed away from the windows.

Just as we were going to bed, we heard the sound of a bullhorn blasting through the night. “This is the SWAT team! You are surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”
Later we had some men come to our door, having heard rumors of people wildly running to the condo we were in. We visited briefly, and once they were convinced we weren’t dangerous, they left.

We didn’t have too much night left, so we tried to sleep through the sirens, the loud voices over the bullhorn, and the flashing lights that continued until about 5:00 in the morning. At 7:00, when our alarm went off, we peeked through the blinds and found no sign of the previous night’s activities. Birds were singing, a lady was out jogging with her dog, and a boy was throwing newspapers. A bus pulled up to the corner, and children loaded onto it as the sun began to rise over the mountain to the east.

As I stretched and tried to rub the sleep from my eyes, the phone rang. It was my mom. She wanted to know what I thought of her new condo. “Isn’t it a nice, peaceful neighborhood?”

“Yeah, Mom, nice and peaceful.” I didn’t even mention the events of previous night. I didn’t think she’d believe me anyway.

Daris Howard
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Daris Howard

Daris and his wife, Donna, have ten children and were foster parents for several years. He has also worked in scouting and cub scouts, at one time having 18 boys in his scout troop. His plays, musicals, and books build on the characters of those he has associated with, along with his many experiences. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer