The Wrong Way to Be a Friendly Policeman

**Note: Everyone in our family is safe and well.**

It was about 11 pm last night. I was feeling unsettled about a real-life concern highlighted by the TV drama we had been watching. I was anxious and sleep-deprived, having spent much of the previous night and day weathering the tedious, bureaucratic fallout of Naomi’s wallet and phone being stolen the night before. It had been a stressful day. I couldn’t afford another sleepless night, so I took a sedative and drifted off.

At about 11:30 (I looked at the clock), I was awakened by the insistent and repeated clanging of the doorbell. I jumped out of bed and could see the glare of a powerful flashlight darting on our front doorstep.

“Who is it?” I managed to vocalize through the haze of the sedative.

“Berkeley police, sir. Is this the home of Naomi Jacobson?” 

Terror. I had just seen Naomi a few minutes before, when she left for a sleepover at a friend’s. What could possibly have befallen her in such a short time, in such a safe neighborhood?

My heartbeat went from allegro vivace to prestissimo, but my brain transitioned into the clear-headed, adrenaline-nourished crisis mode acquired and practiced over decades in a country where buses routinely explode, and where air-raid sirens once repeatedly forced me and my children into an airtight room with our gas masks in the middle of the night. In the split-second it took me to unbolt the lock, my brain displayed and processed vivid images of a dozen different scenarios that could lead a policeman to wake a law-abiding citizen in the middle of the night with questions about his absent teenage daughter.

Standing before me was a very large police officer with a very large flashlight in one hand and a very small envelope in the other.

“Yes, officer, it is. Has something happened?” I thought I heard a siren from a distant street.

“Are you a family member? Are you related to Naomi Jacobson?”

More brain scenarios.

“Yes, I’m her father. What’s going on? Come in.”

The policeman thrust the envelope at me. “Sir, I’d like you to open the envelope when you’re ready and look at the pictures, and see if you can identify your daughter.”

Dizziness. More frightful mental scenarios. (With war raging in my former homeland, I have spent the past week viewing countless images of mangled bodies, grieving parents, dead and wounded babies and children, grinning selfies of teenagers now dead.) The sedative and the adrenaline were playing tug-of-war. I steeled myself for the worst. After a seeming decade of fiddling with the flap, I finally focused on the contents. 

Not horrific photos, as I had expected, but a blurry photo ID along with a health insurance card and a dojo membership card. Yes, I explained to the officer, these were the contents of Naomi’s wallet, which had recently been stolen on a bus. I did my best to steady my breath and blink away those tears that replace the clear-headed, in-control, bomb-shelter state just as soon as the all-clear has sounded. Composure gave way to post-tramua as the officer made some notes, handed me his card, and explained the circumstances under which a chance dog-walker had found the hastily discarded cards and brought them to the police only ten minutes before. 

“No, sir, nothing has happened to your daughter. Sorry if I alarmed you.”

Hug your dear ones close. I certainly did this morning, when Naomi returned from her sleepover.

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