Saturday, November 23, 2013

My First Moment of Terror

Once again it is time to link up with Kerri Sackville for another "My First". This week her topic is My First Moment of Terror. This took me a while to decide what to write about since so many of the moments I picked were well short of terror. Was the time my aunt was babysitting for me and my brother and sister, and she got us all - herself included - scared about sounds outside a true moment of terror? Scary maybe, but not really terror. Or how about my first camping trip when I woke up in the night and the tight confines of my sleeping bag and the tent gave me a moment of severe claustrophobia until I realized where I was? Possibly, but it was over almost before I knew it.

No, the real moment(s) of terror came in the summer of 1977. It became known in the press as The Summer of Sam.

It had actually started in 1975, although we didn't yet know that we had seen the beginning of the reign of a serial killer.

His targets at first had all been young women, in their teens. Each had been returning from an evening out and each were killed in what were generally considered "good" neighborhoods, not those you might expect to have to worry about walking home at night.

The killing continued through the summer of 1976, and all of them had taken place in the NYC borough of Queens. The entire city was on alert and fear of the night was rampant. By the summer of 1976 the profile of the women he was killing had become those in their mid 20's. My wife and I did not visit any friends in Queens if we would be there at night.

Then, in the summer of 1977 two things happened which changed things for my wife and myself. The first Son of Sam (as the shooter was now being called as well as the .44 caliber killer) attack that included a boyfriend, and a killing right in our own neighborhood in the NYC borough of Brooklyn. All Son of Sam attacks up until this point had been in Queens, so there was a measure of safety in the fact that we lived in Brooklyn. That was no longer the case.

We lived at that time in an apartment building, so when we would return home we would always have to search for street parking, most often within a block or two of our building. While we avoided returning at night if we could, life doesn't always cooperate, and one night, days after the shooting not far from our location, we found ourselves having to walk about a block from where we parked the car to our building. Did I mention that my wife and I fit the killer's victims profile almost perfectly? To this day, that walk on that particular night is still sharp in my memory - as is the terror of what normally would have been a short, hardly noticed walk.

Happily, it was not too long after that time that late in the summer, David Berkowitz was caught, and today is serving 6 life sentences.

An ironic footnote to this moment of terror, is the fact that when a movie was made in 1999 (entitled, Summer of Sam), David Berkowitz was played by Michael Badalucco, an actor with whom I went to college, and had performed with in my final show in school. (Of course he was the lead and I was in the pit.)

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