Saturday, February 11, 2012

Safety of the Commune

Have you heard about Sherry Arnold?  I usually do not get caught up in missing persons cases.  I don't follow them, and I don't feel much beyond a cursory "oh how sad."  But the Sherry Arnold case has been like a punch to the gut - for me, and for so much of the running moms community. 

Sherry went out for an early morning run on January 7th - fitting in her Saturday run before the sun came up, like so many of us do.  Except Sherry hasn't come home yet.  The FBI has declared her dead, two men have been arrested, but her body has yet to be found.

It really got me thinking about running safely - especially in the early (dark) morning hours when I am doing most of my running these days...and when Sherry disappeared.  There were discussions in my running moms group about whether we should be out running alone ever, let alone in the dark.  And whether we should all take self-defense classes, carry mace, or whether any of us carried a firearm when we ran.

I participated in the virtual run for Sherry today.  I ran seven miles, and I thought a lot about keeping myself safe.  I do what I can on my own - I carry my cell phone; I remain aware of my surroundings; I give up style in favor of making myself visible by wearing reflective suspenders, a head lamp, a strobe LED, and bright orange hat and mittens/gloves; I generally do my early morning runs in areas where there is already at least some foot and auto traffic at that hour.

I also try to make eye contact and say hello to everyone I see along the way.  If something were to happen to me, I hope they will remember that they saw me that morning and be able to say what time and approximately where.

And today as I drove to the grocery store - with Sherry and the virtual run on my mind - I passed a runner who got me concerned.  She stopped near a crosswalk (normal) and she quickly doubled over and put her hands on her legs (normal if you're done, but usually runners try to keep themselves moving at intersections, especially when it is cold out, and it was about 18 degrees at the time!).  I looked back as I yielded at the entrance to the roundabout, and she had a hand over her mouth.  I thought she looked like she might throw up.

I went all the way around the roundabout with the intention of rolling down my window when I got back to her, and asking if she was alright (embarrassing for her if she was just fine?  Maybe.  But better embarrassed than injured and struggling to get home, correct?).  By the time I got around the roundabout she had taken off, just fine.

So on my run for Sherry (7 miles, run at a pace under a 9-minute mile, TYVM!), I thought about safety as another function of community.  I have written a lot in the context of motherhood about community, supporting one another, the possible depths of friendship, the importance of supporting new moms, and generally wanting to live on a commune and looking out for each other.

In the end, the need to look out for each other extends far beyond mothers, children, or families.  Sherry - and the experience of driving behind an erratic, texting driver a couple weeks ago - have renewed my own commitment to reporting things that are unsafe (erratic and/or texting drivers, for example!), taking note of things that are out of the ordinary, and checking in with people I am concerned about.
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