I am 50 years old. I am a native daughter of Denver. I live with my family in a small house that is pretty much smack in the middle of the city. Our house rests on the south edge of Park Hill right off of Colfax Avenue. I have a story.
Yesterday I was running around delivering boxes full of eggs that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on and I was rushing home just before noon to make myself some eggs and spend some time with my family when I remembered that we were out of milk. I stopped at the 7 Eleven around the corner from our house for a quick grab and go where I usually love talking to the people who work there, so I was kind of looking forward to that part. It’s an easy quick shopping stop. This time was anything but easy. As I touched the handle to open the door to the 7 Eleven I could feel the electricity in the building. What I had walked into was a ticking time bomb. It took me only a few seconds to sense what was happening inside that store.
When I walked in an older woman of color was being harassed by a man who was behind her in line. Apparently, she had jumped the line straight to the counter and he was angry. She seemed scared and I’m guessing she was confused. It’s difficult to understand the lines in the stores these days. By the time I grabbed my gallon of milk and made my way to the end of the 8-10 man line behind those two I heard the man angrily call the woman a bitch. It had probably been 20 seconds? Everyone in the store seemed frozen, unable to react. The men in line were all just watching and probably going through a similar thought process to mine. I know I was considering how I could help the woman. I was so afraid that she was going to be physically attacked.
As I took my place at the end of the line, a man of color walked in. I’m guessing he was in his early 40s, but it’s so difficult to recognize people with masks on. The man took his place between the woman and the man who was verbally assaulting her. The man began standing up for her, telling the man that you can’t talk to people like that. Yes. But it was also making the situation scarier. Now the two men were engaged in verbal conflict. Oy.
At that point I felt like someone had to do something. I just didn’t know exactly what that was. I couldn’t fully view any of the people from the back of the line and I was starting to feel more fearful that maybe none of us were going to make it out of the store at this point. My life insurance policy flashed through my mind. I need to pay that bill.
I got out of line and went back to the cooler where I got my milk to put it away. I was considering maybe going outside to call 911 or whether I could text 911 and stay at the front of the store. I really didn’t want to see any physical violence added to the verbal violence that was escalating rapidly now as her protector stood up for what was right. I walked to the front of the store to face the line. I quickly observed both men. The woman’s aggressor was about a 40 year old caucasian man who was not wearing a mask. He had piercing blue eyes, a shaved bald head, and tattoos covering his face and neck. I was trying to figure out why his eyes were so scary. Was it drugs? It was definitely anger. The woman’s protector was wearing a mask and looked a lot like my friend, Steve, who is one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know. And I know that throughout his life he also has stood up for a lot of people. I know because I am one of them. I’m lucky to have him as a friend and I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance.
The woman paid for her things and walked past me out the door. I spoke to her quietly. I told her I was sorry and that I hoped she would have a nice day. I didn’t know what else to say. She looked stunned. That’s when I turned to the men who could not take their eyes off of each other. They seemed to be sizing each other up. The protector said again that you cannot disrespect women like that. The aggressor replied that she couldn’t just jump in line. It felt to me like it was about to erupt into violence. All I could sense was anger and fear in the building. So I spoke. I raised up my hands to them and I looked the two men in the eyes. I asked them to please give everyone here some peace. The aggressor looked at me for what felt like minutes and said something again about the woman jumping the line. I shook my head up and down and I calmly asked again for some peace. They both tried to state their arguments to me again. I shook my head up and down that I understood their positions and I asked them to let it go. I said let’s all please have some peace.
Luckily, it worked. The aggressor walked out of the store. I picked up my milk and went to the back of the line. The protector got in line in front of me to buy whatever he was buying and I started sobbing audibly. The protector and I spoke to each other. I thanked him. He explained that he would have stood up for anyone. That it wasn’t right. I told him that I knew that. We are the same.
I hope that the rest of the day went peacefully for everyone else who witnessed what happened in our neighborhood 7 Eleven yesterday. I know I was pretty shaken all day and also just so incredibly grateful that I hadn’t witnessed anything worse than what I had. Grateful that I got to come home to my family.
It’s chaotic out there. Please remember what and who you are fighting FOR. We are one nation. One people. I hope we can remember that we are the UNITED States of America. I believe we must.