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Our doorbell provides a snapshot of our lives. Here, my son, Henry, and I sit on the step enjoying a warm afternoon and playing with his favorite toys — cars and trucks of all kinds.

I saw it as I was driving to work on Thursday last week: a red, shimmering something floating in the air. It grabbed my attention, so I pulled over and took a walk. 

I stood at the top of an embankment along 270th Avenue. A couple hundred feet away, traffic whirred by, oblivious to the fact that, just through the trees, a makeshift memorial for a girl gone too soon was taking shape. 

At the top of the hill, above the pond, the drone of tires on U.S. 61 was loud. But down in the valley, near the water, the air was still and quiet. Branches that showed the first buds of spring moved slightly in the breeze. The sun shined through the trees and casted a yellow glow upon the water.

The red item I’d spotted while driving was a balloon; it glimmered and swayed in the wind. On the water’s edge, several teddy bears sat among twigs and leaves. 

I stood at the edge of the water and took in the stillness of the air. A week prior, police and investigators swarmed the hillside, combing for clues, battling their human emotions as they conducted their gruesome but necessary work. Their footprints have faded, and in their place are colorful pinwheels and a trail of rose petals upon the grass. 

The memorial for Breasia Terrell was both beautiful and sorrowful. 

After work, I went back a second time; the collection of items had grown and spread. It seemed as if the wind’s speed increased down in the valley. The flower petals and pinwheel were floating in the pond, and the pink and white petals were juxtaposed against the mucky, brown, turbid water. 

It’s important to stop in moments like these and pause. How could this happen? In what kind of world do we live that this is possible? I think of my own children. 

My heart aches for Breasia’s family and friends. I cannot fathom their sorrow - first in July when she disappeared and then again last week with the news most of us expected, but didn’t want to hear. I hope Breasia’s family now can obtain some semblance of closure.

Slowing down

On our front door is a Nest camera doorbell. When we installed it, the main purpose was for security. I figured with online orders being delivered, why not put a digital eyeball on the front of the house to watch for porch pirates?

It was a luxury purchase — something to feed my hunger for niche tech products as I slowly attempt to turn our 1970s split-foyer into a personal version of Silicon Valley. 

My wife just rolls her eyes. 

Yet, shortly after the doorbell was installed, we realized it serves a second purpose. It provides a portal to our lives capturing those innocent moments that we all cherish. Every front door in America is witness to the hustle and bustle of life’s perfect calamity. 

For instance, our doorbell records each of the several hundred laps our dog, Patrick, makes around the house on the daily. It was recording when the wind blew the front door open and our cat, Carl, thought she’d try to escape and take a stroll across the front yard. It also captured our across-the-street neighbor running over and saving the day. 

The doorbell was also witness to us bringing our daughter through the front door of her new home for the first time. It bore witness to our son’s first “real injury” that he obtained tripping on the driveway. And it recorded my wife’s grandpa’s afternoon visit to our house a couple months before he passed away from the cancer he’d so valiantly fought for years. 

I can save clips from the camera and download them to my phone, which is a good thing, because without that feature, they’d be lost forever. Recently I’ve neglected saving as many clips as I’d like. After a period of time, the footage is deleted into the ether. Those are visualizations of memories we won’t get back. 

Such moments in life are fleeting. They pop up in the most random – sometimes inopportune – ways. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy photography so much, and why we are so fortunate to have cameras in our pockets that can capture those polaroid-worthy moments in life whenever they happen. 

I can only hope Breasia’s family has some of those moments to hold onto. If I can take something from her story, it’s to consistently look for those doorbell-worthy moments. 

Like cars on the highway, they pass so quickly. Sometimes we miss them. Maybe we’re driving too fast. or we’re stuck in our own little worlds. I am usually that person, stuck on cruise. 

But sometimes it pays to stop and look through the trees. You may glimpse a balloon.