Jill looked at the television. She placed her head in her hands and tears fell onto her clothing. How could the world get to this? How could people stoop to this level? Just yesterday everything was calm, possibly even still, but in twenty-four hours life seemed to turn upside down-for the worse.
Her first thought was to jump in the car and race to her husband-Ben-at his job, the local police station-or what was left of it. But sense got ahold of her and she knew she had to calm herself down. He wouldn't want her to get in the middle of this dangerous time, and his job.
When Jillian M. Tack had married Benjamin L. Phillips she knew it was going to be rough. At that point in the U.S. racism had almost settled. It wasn't as active. She had loved Ben with her entire heart, they had plans for the future. Wonderful, loving plans that always included being held in each other's arms. They would only be separated by death and that day would be so far off they couldn't think about it. They had their first baby, Lizzy, a beautiful brown chubby thing. Then Felix came, a tannish chunk, and finally Maylie, the tiniest and quietest. Their family was perfect. Five years of marriage, a four-year-old, three-year-old, and a one-year-old.
Now racism was ruining their lives once more. As a caucasian married to an African American, in the heart of the deep south, she knew this day would come. She wanted to hold her babies close and escape to the Northwest with her husband close behind, but he had insisted that he needed to stay. Stay close to family, friends, and memories. She had reluctantly agreed and they had bought a home. Now Jill wished with her whole heart he would have moved. She would make him, for his safety, now.
Jill needed to know he was OK. She needed to hear Ben's voice. She picked up the phone and dialed the number.
"Hello, this is Hill Street Police Station, if you have an emergency please call 911, now, how may I help you?" The man's voice was shaky and tired, but steady. The mark of an experienced police officer.
"Charlie? This is Jill Phillips. Can I talk to Ben?" She tapped her foot impatiently. Just answer, say yes of course, say that he is just finishing up a snack but just say that he is alive.
"Oh, hello Jill. Your husband is alright, but he can't talk on the phone. I don't even know if he is still here." He sighed.
"Where else would he be?" Fear started to set in.
"They haven't notified you? He has a bullet wound to the shoulder and some burns on his lower arms and face, but nothing he won't heal from. I think he needs you to come see him in person. But, don't worry." He was talking low, almost too low to hear.
Her dear sweet Ben! Shot and burned. Just what she had feared. She would make him quit his job if it was the last thing she would do.
"Ok, thanks Charlie. I'll get his mom to come over and watch the kids."
She hung up and dialed another number, most dear to her heart. This was the home number that she had called and used for long conversations with Ben as teenagers. They had talked about everything from chores to marriage.
"Hello? Jill? Is everything alright? I just saw the news." Ben's mothers' loving voice was sounding just like Jill's, like it was dying from the inside.
"Bullet wounds and burns, nothing he won't heal from. Can you come over and watch the kids?" Her insides were slowly crumbling. What if the violent people came back? What if they tried to start another fire?
"Of course. I'm on my way." She breathed deeply and hung up.
Jill grabbed her coat and shoes and stuffed them on. She picked up Maylie and kissed her on the head. She also pecked Felix on the head and then hugged Lizzie.
"You be good, you hear? Grandmama is coming to watch you. I have to go see daddy." Tears were coming to her eyes as she repetitively thought to keep it together for her children.
"Daddy? He's at work?" Lizzie asked innocently.
"Yes, sweetie." She put Maylie down and kissed her head once more. She hurried out the door just as Ben's mother arrived. They briefly waved and then Jill was off.
The ten-minute car ride seemed to take hours. She had never wished more that she could just transport. Now, being alone, she started crying. Tears for her injured husband, tears of guilt, tears of love, tears of anger, tears of hope. She hated the negative feelings she had, yet it seemed her mind welcomed them. She wished she could feel bad for the other people injured or maybe even killed, but her mind went back to her dear, dear Ben. Her love, her heart, and her husband.
She parked the car about a block up out of habit. She had used to surprise Ben at his job when they were dating. When she came into view of the building she stopped. The grass and trees and all of the plants around it had traded their green color in for black. The building itself smoked here and there although it mostly was untouched. The windows were shattered and the wood sign which had stated for fifty years, 'Hill Street Police Station' was half gone, what was there had minuscule bullet holes. The whole place had caution tape surrounding it and more police men, fire-fighters, and journalists stood looking around. She ran up to a man with a police badge.
"Sir, my husband works here, according to the man I talked to on the phone he was shot and burned, where might he be?" She tried to stop the tears from coming. She tried to be stoic and brave.
"What's your husband's name?" He asked.
"Benjamin or Ben Philips. If you need to know if I'm really his wife or not I can tell you his age and birthday and any other information."
"No, that will be fine, Mrs. Philips. He is in an ambulance on his way to the Hospital, ask the front desk nurse for him and tell her 'Chief Danielson' sent you." He smiled a friendly reassuring smile.
"Thank you so much, Sir."
When Jill got to the hospital she did as the chief had told her to. She was led to a plain, bland room. The nurse opened the door and let her in. Inside were a doctor and another nurse.
"Jill! My dearest." Ben looked up and out of pain he grimaced.
"Are you alright? Oh, Ben! I've been so worried!" Her ever frequent tears spilled again.
"I'm fine. Just need a rest." His eyes closed every now and then. His eyes were also teary out of fear or pain she didn't know.
"What happened?" Jill was almost afraid to ask. She wanted to share with him the burden of the horrors he experienced, yet at the same time she didn't want to plague her mind with anxiety.
"I don't remember everything," Ben started, "At around three o'clock a man came to the door. I opened it, he smiled and asked to talk to me in a private room. I gladly said yes and led him to an office. Then I noticed he had a gun, and next thing I knew I had a bullet hole in my shoulder. Before the men knew what happened, the guy was running outside. As soon as he made it out the door fire was set to the building. I tried to get out but the fire burned my face and arms first. Then one of the men was arrested and the rest got away. I was interviewed and then taken to the hospital. After that it was all IV's, doctors, and medication."
Jill should have known this would happen. Ever since an inhumane police officer had killed an African American man, the whole world consisted of hate and rioting. Just hate and rioting.
She understood the protests, she had even attended one herself. But returning the violence for violence? That was something that had to be stopped.
Now she worried for her children, her grandchildren, and all African American people. It sickened her that she would be so free from hate and that her children would experience it daily. A change had to happen. Now. There was no time for hate to be prevented, for it had already taken over the nation. Hating the hated and hating the hater. Hating the innocent and hating the wicked. What a sick word, so harsh. HATE.
EVERY LIFE MATTERS
NO MATTER THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN