You never know

February 1, 2010 1:47:56 PM PST
We wake up in the morning, bound out of bed (at least some of us), and get ready to face the day, and the world.

We have no idea what the world holds in store for us, and, if we thought too hard about it, we'd probably stay in bed.

The assumption is that, whatever happens, the day will unfold, we'll deal, and return to our bed, ready to sleep it off and prepare for the next day.

Except when we don't return to our bed.

Henry Menahem didn't. He was the 71-year-old jewelry store worker who was shot and killed during a robbery last week on Madison Ave. and 76th St. on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The robber took advantage of a broken surveillance video system and a broken security door to barge in and take more than $1 million worth of jewels, and shoot Mr. Menahem.

If the door had been working properly, no way the robber - dressed in a mask and sunglasses - would have been let in. Did he know something about the broken surveillance camera and security door?

And there's Karen Schmeer, the 39-year-old renown film editor. She had already had a remarkable life and career - with so much more ahead of her - when she was run down by a hit and run driver Friday night at 90th and Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Police were apparently chasing three men in a rental car after they had stolen some over-the-counter medication from a drug store. The car hit one vehicle, and then ran down Ms. Schmeer as she was crossing the street.

I saw the scene, minutes afterwards. One of her boots was in the middle of the street. Another by the curb. Her bags were on the ground. Somehow, some eggs had been splattered against a sidewalk billboard. It was horrible.

The driver of the car has been arrested, but the two vermin riding with him ran away and haven't been caught. Yet.

And then there are the five people who died in an arson fire in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn over the weekend - immigrants from Guatemala who may have been living in an illegally subdivided apartment building. There were smoke detectors in the building, but either not enough of them or not working. If they weren't working, they were, to quote my father, as useless as breasts on a bull.

Today, with a renewed sense of fire safety awareness - and perhaps a slice of fear - a couple of hundred people in Brooklyn showed up at Fire Dept. stations to get free smoke detectors - devices handed out as part of our Operation 7 Save A Life campaign.

Tonight at 11 we'll be in Bensonhurst, looking at just how many people do, or don't, have working smoke detectors. I went out in the Bronx a couple of years ago after a deadly fire there and was shocked to see how many people thought they had working smoke detectors - but didn't. Lucy Yang has our story.

The bigger point - relating to the beginning of this column - is that we just never know. We never know when a confluence of events will, by chance, conspire to do us in.

It could happen to any of us, at any time. So you tell the people you love that you love them. And you embrace every moment, with the caveat that you treat your body as if you will live forever and your soul as if you're going to die tomorrow.

And, I suppose, you can add: Make sure you have a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's Arctic weekend AccuWeather forecast, Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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