By Bob Ciminel
January 23, 2006
I was in the second grade the last time my name appeared in a newspaper, and that was only because a friend of mine who was playing Captain Marvel broke both arms after jumping from a second-story fire escape while wearing a blanket for a cape and then ratted on me and gave my name to a newspaper reporter and told him it was my idea and we'd been doing it every day for a couple of weeks. Of course, I lied and said I'd only mentioned it in passing, and I wasn't stupid enough to jump off a fire escape while yelling, Shazam! Look, it was either him or me, and that little prevarication saved me from a big old can of "Whoop-Ass," which one or both of my parents would have opened up if they thought I was trying to fly.
I've never been robbed; no one in my family has ever been arrested; I've never had a bad accident, other than knocking out my two front teeth while sliding backwards on the ice during recess in Fifth Grade at St. Alphonsus. I told Mom that someone pushed me in the playground and avoided another whipping for being stupid.
Come to think of it, I've really never been associated with any newsworthy events, unless Jimmy Carter coming to Beaumont, Texas in the late Seventies made the headlines. My daughter and I were in the crowd. I think my wife talked me into it because I would never have voluntarily gone to a Jimmy Carter rally. I never did figure out why Carter came to Beaumont. Maybe he dedicated the new post office.
My seven years in the military were uneventful too. We never did anything noteworthy during the Cold War, other than tail Russian submarines around the Med for days on end, but every submarine in the United States Navy did that. I mean, they were so easy to find, sounding like an eggbeater in the water.
I consider myself a charter member of the Silent Majority and the archetypical Average American. So you can imagine why I would begin to suspect the Fates had found out about me when two unrelated and totally random events occurred at the end of last year that directly affected my family.
The first event involved the murder of a Pennsylvania State Trooper in early December.
Deaths of law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties are not an uncommon occurrence in major metropolitan areas, and this one occurred on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The trooper had pulled over a car at an exit on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway southwest of the city in the early morning hours of December 12, 2005. A right turn off the exit led to a residential area; a left turn into a business park and the Extended Stay America hotel parking lot. The speeder turned left and pulled into the entrance to the hotel. It was around 2 a.m.
While the Trooper was still in his patrol car, four people got out of the car he was pursuing. An altercation ensued that ended with the trooper being shot twice with his own service pistol. His attackers then threw the trooper into a snow bank and drove away, leaving him to bleed to death.
This would have been a tragic crime at any hotel in any city, but this happened to be the hotel where my wife and I, my daughter and grandson, my son, and my sister-in-law were staying, and it was the day of my father's funeral.
The entrance to the parking lot was a crime scene. We couldn't drive our cars out of the lot to go to the funeral home, and no one could come near the hotel to pick us up. The State Police were understandably unsympathetic, but the local police were willing to help us out and dispatched a patrol car to drive us to the funeral home.
I'm sure the trooper's murder in front of our hotel was just a coincidence.
Nursing home fires are another relatively common occurrence in the United States. Fortunately, the operators of these homes and the local public safety organizations learned the lessons of these disastrous fires and have enacted codes and regulations to improve fire safety. Fire drills are required to ensure the nursing home staffs can safely evacuate patients.
The greater Pittsburgh area has several hundred nursing homes. On Tuesday, January 17, 2006, at 6 a.m., there was a fire in one of those homes. It was the nursing home where my mother resides. Not only was the fire at Mom's nursing home, it was on her floor, down the hall from her room.
My mother was safely evacuated, along with all the other residents. The firemen who responded to the fire, and there were a lot of them, said the nursing home staff did exactly what needed to be done to save their patients. The staff said they always complained about the administration holding unannounced fire drills at 6 a.m. They don't complain any longer.
I'm sure the fire at Mom's nursing home was just another coincidence.
No, I'm not superstitious. As I said, things rarely happen to me.
There was one other event that had some curious connections, and that was John F. Kennedy's assassination. Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963. I was in the Navy at the time, stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station in Waukegan, Illinois. I was attending Machinist's Mate School, and it was the first day of class. Earlier that day, we were given our class number and duty section. We were assigned class number 2222 and I was assigned to duty section 2. Probably just a coincidence, I'm sure.
Other than birds and squirrels fighting over my feeders, not much happens in my backyard, but those two events in Pittsburgh are getting a little too close to home.
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He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.