This is my second version of this blog post. The first one was a lot more angry, accusatory, and possibly libelous. Probably best that I take another run at it before I post it. My anger serves no real purpose, and I’d just as soon not get sued for libel, so there you go.
The topic in question is the cab driver that was killed the other night here in Cedar Rapids. In my last try at working this out in words, I also veered off on the two shootings that happened that same night, how the criminal element here in otherwise lovely Iowa makes me really angry, and so on. Most of my thoughts, though, keep coming back to this man, a man I didn’t know, named Richard Dankert. Mr. Dankert was 76 years old when his life senselessly ended the other night. As I say, I know nothing about him. I do know with certainty, though, that he was someone’s son. He was probably someone’s father, brother, uncle. Certainly he was someone’s friend.
Here was a man who, at age 76, was still contributing to society by driving his taxi, ferrying folks who needed to get from one place to another, and doing it late at night. He won’t be doing that any more, thanks to the reckless and criminal actions of a local thief and drug fiend; a real winner who slammed a stolen car into the side of his cab. This is the part where I start to get mad. I’m going to try to resist.
This issue would touch me anyway, because the loss of innocent life is always to be mourned. It touches me particularly because my dad used to drive a cab in Cedar Rapids, many years ago, trying to earn a few extra bucks for his young, growing family. And when it comes down to it, it could have been any of us in Mr. Dankert’s position, which was simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Almost exactly 48 hours earlier, a little a bit after midnight on Monday morning, I drove east on Wilson Avenue at I-380, just as Mr. Dankert would do. Had some drugged-out loser in a stolen car been fleeing police at just that moment instead of two days later, it could have been me.
My sadness about this, though, does not come from a reminder of my mortality. It is a sadness spawned by a life that was ended for absolutely no good reason. A life was ended because someone was driving a car that was reported stolen. A life was ended because someone didn’t want to be caught in possession of crack cocaine and marijuana. So along the streets of our fair city she fled, at a high rate of speed, a threat to everyone she encountered, a lethal threat to one who she probably never met, and had no grievance with, one who had no idea his life was about to end because of her.
But end his life she did, as sure as if she’d pointed a gun at his head and fired. This was no accident. She set in motion a series of events that had the loss of a life as a distinct possibility. Tragically, that is exactly what happened.
Richard Dankert’s family and friends mourn his loss. I cross that intersection almost everyday on my way to or from the Z102.9 studios on the southwest side, and each time think of a man I did not know. I share his loved ones’ sorrow. I think many others do too, more than those who loved him will ever know.