"Bang! Bang! Bang!"...three shots at close range and Marta Shanaman went down.
Amazingly, either by accident or sheer instinct, the first and last thing Marta did as she went down was to hit the red "Emergency Button" on her desk; within seconds police were on the scene, suspect was in custody, and sirens wailed as Marta was transported to the nearest hospital.
Marta, affectionately called "Shanty" by her friends and co-workers, was logged in at the hospital as D.O.A.
I will never forget that Sunday, December 12, l971. It was the saddest day of my life. I still can't talk about it without getting choked up and teary-eyed. I lost the dearest and closest friend I have ever known before, or since.
"Shanty" and I had just returned from taking a mini-vacation to Florida. We had also gone to North Bay, Canada, earlier that year to visit my fishing buddy on his vacation, and of course, we had spent many a graveyard shift working together at the Women's Detention Center at Police Headquarters in downtown Detroit.
Although she was a supervisor and I a peon, it didn't make any difference. We were buddies. I would seek her advice on everything from men, to work, to my disfunctional family; and if she didn't have answers - she at least listened; "That's what friends are for", she would say.
She was the sweetest and kindest person I've ever known. Always doing something nice, even for the "low lifes" and "streetwalkers" we locked up; if they were hungry, she'd give them whatever was left over in the prison refrigerator, even though it was against rules. She just couldn't bear to see anybody hungry, suffering or hurting.
I never saw her angry, raise her voice or shout at anybody...friend or foe; nor did she ever have anything bad to say about anybody. She never would gossip or judge anyone's behavior no matter how far out in left field they might be - she was just an unbelievable person with angelic and saintlike characteristics that I hoped might rub off on me; but the "rub off" was a dismal failure, as I still remained impatient, intolerant, stubborn and self-centered.
Shanty was quiet and reserved around strangers and rather shy - but when it came to handling inmates, she was a genius. I marvelled at her patience with their complaining, griping and throwing hissy fits...which drove the rest of us up the wall; but Shanty took it all in stride...with a smile to boot!
On that Sunday, December 12th - I was working two floors below Shanty, answering 911 Emergency calls in Communications when I heard the "Emergency" buzzer go off; then a radio alert "Officer Down on 8th Floor Detention", and suddenly I had a sense of dread - I knew Shanty was on duty.
Taking off my headset, I rushed to the elevator. Of course it was blocked off - and all I could do was wait. Then I heard the sound of a siren - and listened until it faded into the distance. I wanted to know... but was afraid to ask. Somehow, I think I knew.
Later I would learn the gory details; a visitor had entered the Detention Center to visit her "girlfriend"; and upon leaving she had pulled a gun on Shanty, demanding the prisoner's release.
Knowing my friend Shanty, even with a gun pointed six inches from her face, I know her last words were spoken with kindness and empathy as she probably said, "I'm sorry, but I cannot do that".
For two days and nights I sat in the hushed silence of the funeral parlor, just to be near my friend. Her son George and his girlfriend Carol were there also - but I couldn't think of anything uplifting or comforting to say to them. I only remember sitting there weeping, remembering, pondering, and agonizing over my loss. I was missing my best friend.
Perhaps on Resurrection day, if I get my act together, along with the bountiful grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross - I will see my friend Shanty again; meanwhile, may she Rest In Peace.
Press Release: Police Matron Marta Shanaman was shot and Killed during an escape attempt at the Detroit Police Department's Central detention facility. The suspect, Maggie Pugh, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
UPDATE: 9/12/06: George Shanaman, her son, has read this and tells me that I was the one who called him and told him to go down to the Hospital; I didn't remember that, but he said that he thought I was joking, that it couldn't be true...but it was. He appreciated my telling his mother's story. He now lives in Florida.
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