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Flash back to 2 years ago (pre-blog era) :) Leaving Oxford With a Bang

February 24, 2010

I don’t know if any of you ever get flashbacks to exactly one or two or however many years ago. I do. I don’t know if it’s the weather that creates the associations, or what. But today I woke up thinking about how two years ago right around this time I was finishing up a 6 week internship as a book conservator at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. So I started digging through my photo archives, and I came across these photos, dated 2008_02_22:

“This is what woke me up last night”

The short version: I awoke in the middle of the night to a loud BANG when four drunk teens / early 20s drove into my neighbor’s and my houses.   Thank goodness for the brick wall around our houses, since they protected the actual houses from being damaged.

The house I stayed in is the door to the right: only the wall was damaged. My bedroom window was the large one on the right side of the white wall. The house on the left was my neighbor’s.

I had to give a detailed report to the police, so I wrote up a lengthy account, too.

Here’s the long version (I’m not offended if you don’t read it) :)

On my next-to last night in Oxford (Fri, Feb22–well, really it was Saturday), I was abruptly awakened at 2 am by an incredibly loud bang–followed immediately by laughter and running footsteps. My heart was pounding, and at first I thought (or perhaps just hoped, not wanting to have to face whatever mystery might be below…) that it was some kind of prank–something like a dry ice bomb or something–and I kinda sorta just wanted to go back to sleep. But the sound was on my neighbor’s doorstep–and I thought surely kids wouldn’t deliberately blow up a random person’s doorstep? I also looked to the window, and saw a cloud of dust drifting past my window (all of the above happened within a few seconds)…the kids below were running off and laughing, but then I heard them come back, and I heard the neighbor (a very tender-hearted Chinese woman) come out, and say “what have you done to my home? You’ve ruined my house! The kids asked if she was okay, and were saying “we didn’t mean to!”

Obviously, at this point I had realized that I really did need to go down and make sure Carolyn’s house (my landlady–the house in which I was sleeping) was still intact… and offer any support that I could…

Carolyn was away for the night; as was Katalin. I was the only one home. I had to put on some trousers and a coat, find my keys so I could get out (and thought to myself, if there was an emergency in which I needed to get out immediately, I’m locked in without my keys!)

I came out to find a smashed car and rubble in my neighbor’s tiny front garden. Our houses are situated right up alongside a narrow road, with 3 foot high brick walls enclosing the wee gardens. Four kids had rounded the bend, and somehow managed to drive right into the wall, taking out three walls, trees, and the neighbor’s front gate.

My neighbor was a bit hysterical. At first she thought I was one of the kids and started to scold me; I reminded her that I was her neighbor (we’ve only met once), and she fell into my arms, sobbing. “I’m so scared. My husband is not home.” I told her it would all be okay, and look. It’s amazing that her house is unharmed–that only the garden was destroyed (she couldn’t get outside w/out climbing over the wall), and everybody’s safe.

I checked to make sure the police were being called–my neighbor’s 18 year old daughter already had them on the phone. The license plate was, well, not going anywhere. (the driver, a young black female, tried to start the car again so as to drive off–but this car was high-centered on the wall–not to mention it was bashed in)…

I began talking to the 3 who were passengers (two white females and one black male–all were probably in their late teens or early 20s); I learned from them that the young black girl who was across the street at this point was the driver; she was on the phone with her mom. The girls were using pretty irrational logic with me: “we didn’t mean to–there was a curve in the road (they had come around a curve, but should have straightened out–they must have been going quite fast). There was a cat (probably also not true–but regardless–lets sacrifice all four of us and that house on behalf of the cat?!)

The kids started to walk off, and though I didn’t know where they might go; I figured it best if they not flee the scene. So I followed them up the lane and talked to them (the driver still quite a ways off on the phone, thought I kept my eye on her to make sure she didn’t flee).

I asked them if they were all right “we’re fine. The driver–we need to help her. She’s all shaken up. We need to go…” I told them I was concerned, because they were in shock, and they were probably injured and didn’t know it (this seemed to be news to them–like I say, they were a)presumably intoxicated and b)in shock. Basically, I calmly engaged them in discussion. Told them that the responsible thing to do is to stick around until the police arrived. “But we need to take the driver to her mom.” No, says I. Her mom can come here. But she needs to stay here. The boy was saying “my back is gonna be killing me tomorrow.” I asked if they’d been drinking. One: “nuh…naw. I don’t even drink…” The other: “I had a few drinks, but I wasn’t driving…but our driver didn’t drink…”

The police pulled up and the kids started to hurry off down the lane and around the corner. One of the police chased after them and as he passed me, asked for a descrip. of the driver, which I gave him. It was an easy enough pursuit. They all came back with him. The officer took some very basic info from Adele’s daughter and me, and said they would probably be contacting me soon for a witness’ statement. I had no way of contacting Carolyn. Only one wall of her garden was taken out, the rest of her house and garden completely escaped.

I don’t believe the driver ever even hit the brakes.The laughter right after the bang is particularly unsettling. As the police loaded the driver into their car, I heard one say to her, “you’ve failed four times. That’s enough tries for you,” Meanwhile the blonde irrational girl was saying to them, “do you think that the reason she can’t get much breath is because she’s injured? Because we’re in shock–we might not know how injured we are…”

And this was my adventure of last week.

The next night–my last evening in Oxford–a nice police woman came over and took my testimony. It took ages b/c she had to write it by hand. I agreed to go to court if it should come to that. Let’s hope not–

And that was how I spent my last night in Oxford–giving my statement to a policewoman.

Just thought I’d share.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2010 11:23 am

    Oh my! That’s so crazy!
    You know, with that tree bent over like that it makes it look like you were having a really bad wind storm. =)

  2. Lili permalink*
    March 1, 2010 11:58 am

    The bent tree is actually the other half of two trees that the neighbor had trained to grow into an arch over the gate. It’s just that the other half is gone :(

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