Attempted murder, the police officer told me. That would be the charge if the two men were caught. “We probably won’t catch them,” he admitted, “but if we do, that’s what we’ll put on them.” I was surprised; it was, I said, more a mugging than anything else. “Did they have a gun?” he asked. Yes. “Did they say they were going to use it on you?” Yes. “That’s textbook attempted murder.”
This all happened two decades ago, but of course I remember every detail, in part because the officer’s words made me realize the gravity of the situation. Getting mugged was no big deal in West Philly in 1997, but the possibility that I could have lost my life over $24—that was something else.
A brief recap: I was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, living a few blocks west of the school. On the evening in question, I was walking down Spruce Street toward campus, thinking about anything but my walk. My uncle had died the night before, and I was on my way to return an overdue book—The Raw And The Cooked, by Claude Levi-Strauss—to the library before I headed to New York the next morning for the funeral. For once, I let my guard down.
Source: America Magazine