During the summer, it’s not unusual for me to see and hear helicopters. Some belong to individuals, others to hospitals. A few times I’ve seen three black helicopters pass by eerily. Mostly I see them during the day, and they pass by, or they hover over Promontory Point, the pilots determined to impress someone.
When I realize that the sound isn’t retreating, or I hear one at night, I know there’s trouble. Once, around 6:30 a.m., the noise proved to come from a series of news helicopters hovering ghoulishly around the scene of a fatal crash on Lake Shore Drive (it took firefighters more than an hour to cut one of the bodies out of the flattened car).
When I looked this time, Saturday night at 10:30 p.m., I saw a somewhat surreal sight. The police cars with lights flashing at Promontory Point weren’t out of the ordinary, but what appeared to be three or four police boats, with various lights, were. More than that, a helicopter hovered as close to the water’s surface as possible, shining a powerful searchlight onto it at about the buoy line. With no illuminating moon, the background was unusually dark. All I could see of the helicopter were its lights, searchlight, and the part of the belly lit by it. I could even discern the characteristic cigar shape against the darkness.
The sight was both unreal and unsettling — someone was missing or drowned. As it turned out, it was a man who had either gone missing while swimming off a boat or who had fallen off a boat during a turn (his friends changed their story from the former to the latter).
The helicopter disappeared after midnight, easing itself out of my consciousness, and the search was later abandoned until morning, when it was dispersed over a wider area. In the meantime, I found it even more difficult than usual to fall asleep, suspecting that, while I was comfortably sipping tea and reading, death had paid a dramatic visit just shouting distance away.