433 Steps From My Home: A story about the terrorists next door

I close the door to my home. Sometimes I lock it. The decision normally depends on if I have the key in my pocket or not. Today is different though. I lock my door and check the knob.

There are 16 stairs down from my second level apartment. 16 stairs, 16 steps from my home.

Denali, our 8-month-old Weimaraner Collie mix, knows were to go so I let her take the lead. She tugs lightly on her leash. She enjoys walks, but doesn’t like leaving home without my wife Courtney, who was stuck at work in a meeting. We take turns lightly pulling each other to the end of the block and turn onto Pine Avenue. 99 steps from my home.

Pine Avenue is aptly named. Huge pine trees lift up slabs of sidewalk along the whole street. They defiantly spill over the small strip of grass that separates the sidewalk and the street. All the pine trees need is enough time to bust through the small allotments of earth that they have been planted in, smashing through concrete slow enough to make a iceberg feel like a Ferrari. As we walk, Denali avoids these uplifted slabs of sidewalk that move and creek under her paws.

My neighborhood isn’t normally this loud at 12:30. Today helicopters hover noisily, like permanent fixtures in the sky. Ahead the street is blocked off and three officers stand in front of a yellow police line. One officer quickly approaches and informs me that I need either turn back or turn left down Tamarisk Street. 433 steps from my home.

The whole block between Tamarisk and Center Street is a secure police area. The couple responsible for yesterday’s horrible mass shooting lived there, 433 steps from the place I call home. I’ve made this same walk everyday since we adopted Denali, at this same time. I know I could have walked past that black SUV yesterday. I stop my mind from thinking about what might have happened if we were there at the wrong time. Denali and I are literal steps from what has been described as a “pipe bomb factory” in my small, quiet, suburban neighborhood in Redlands California. If I left Denali at the doorstep of that same apartment where that terrorist family lived, I have reasonable confidence that she could find her way home. A puppy, who still hasn’t figured out how to eat or drink without choking, could find her way back home from a terrorist’s house.

I nod at the stern faced officer and turn to started heading back down Pine Avenue. Denali excitedly pulls at her leash. She knows that she’s only 433 steps from home.