Tonawanda News

January 31, 2013

Hitting too close to home

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Have you ever noticed how everything seems to happen at once?

Monday had been lousy. My husband spent most of the weekend sick with this so-called “norovirus” that’s going around, but I thought that with copious cleaning and hand-washing, the rest of us had avoided it. Not so. I was ready to head out the door to work when, wham ... and, well, that just wasn’t going to happen. 

The rest of the day was a blur, and not in a good way. Then, at 11 p.m., just as I thought I might be able to get some rest ... wham, again. There’s a crying 4-year-old with his own share of the virus and a pajamas and a comforter and a bathroom and a bedroom that suddenly need scrubbing.

I’m not likely to forget the next 21/2 hours, much as I’d like to do so. Up and down. Into the bathroom with the little one. Trying to sneak some sleep. Into the bathroom myself. A little bit of water so no one gets dehydrated. Back to the bathroom with the kid. Repeat.

And then it was 1:30 a.m. 

I was staring at the ceiling, wanting desperately to sleep, pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. Little did I know how correct I was.

The silence of our quiet Town of Tonawanda street was shattered in a heartbeat. Something was moving down the street, very quickly. Somehow, in my ill and sleep-deprived haze, I concluded that it was something very large, like a fire truck. Of course, that probably had something to do with the sirens that accompanied it. 

Lots of sirens. And they were very, very close. 

The kid was sleeping peacefully for the moment. I ran downstairs, meeting my husband, who was trying to catch his own bit of sleep by staying away from us for the evening. “Did you hear that?” we said in unison. 

The ruckus continued as we threw open the curtains, police cars racing down our tree-lined street. Whatever was happening, it was now down at the other end, where all those lights were congregating. Right near where my husband has family living.

I told him to go. He went. I curled up on the couch under a blanket, listening for the kids, hopefully everything was OK, wondering what had brought this bit of chaos to our corner of suburbia. And I waited. And waited.

I’m not good at waiting. My imagination runs away with me. Was it a fire? Carbon monoxide? Not only do we have family at that end of the street, we have friends there. My husband grew up on that block. What was going on?

It was a long 25 minutes before he returned. And even my imagination hadn’t provided me with the scenario that had actually played out.

A high-speed car chase on our street. On Zimmerman Boulevard. On the street where, had it been April, our car would probably have been sitting. Near the sidewalks where our 4-year-old rides his very first bicycle and our 8-year-old collects pinecones and fallen leaves. OUR street.

According to police, Joseph Bell of Buffalo refused to stop when City of Tonawanda police officers attempted to pull him over for speeding on Delaware Street. The chase continued into the town, where it eventually wound up near us. Bell allegedly crossed into lawns, hit signs, trees and two police cars — even clipping a house before eventually spinning out on a lawn and taking off on foot.

So early that winter morning, my husband stood several houses away on a relative’s lawn, which was strewn with debris from the various vehicles, watching the lights from the swarm of police cars and wondering. Eventually an officer told him that the driver had been caught, allaying fears of a manhunt in the area.

In a life spent predominantly on that street, he said, he’s never seen anything like it. In my eight years there, neither have I. 

We didn’t get back to sleep for a while. What if? If that could happen on our quiet street, what else? What if it had been daytime? What if it had been spring? It probably speaks of cliché suburban complacency, but still ... what if?

In the grand scheme of things, the whole situation could have been much worse, and for that, I thank the police officers who mitigated the damage as best they could. I’m glad no one was hurt. I’m glad that not even the property damage was as great as it could have been.

But I don’t think I’ll ever again hear a siren on our street without thinking ... what if?

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at