Stay Safe & Be Thankful
It’s raining here in Michigan. It’s doesn’t feel right this time of year. It’s going to be 60 here today. Doesn’t really put me in the mood for Christmas. At least not today. Besides, to take photos in this gloomy light would not be pretty. I have a special feature and decorating idea coming up soon, but until then, I am sharing a personal story with you. Comments referring to gun control issues, or OCD jokes will not be approved. I share this personal story from my heart, and it is meant to enlighten.
1991 was a transitional year for the redhead. I was 22 and completing my last year at Buffalo State College. I had taken the National Teachers Exam the year before and had passed 1 of 2 parts, missing the Professional section by 1 point. Yes…1 point. What luck. At that time, you needed to pass both parts to student teach. I actually gathered up the courage to approach the Dean and ask permission to complete my student teaching, even though I had missed that 1 point. He was quite rude, and condescending, and gave me a big FAT, “No!”.
So, this meant I would attend the graduation ceremony in May, but I wouldn’t officially graduate on paper until I completed my student teaching. They only offered the NTE twice a year, so luckily I did pass it that Spring. This would only hold me up one semester.
My biggest issue with this was not my pride, or even that my career was being held up. It was Rick. I was madly in love and Rick was leaving Buffalo to start work in Michigan (he had graduated on time). We weren’t breaking up or anything, but I knew the long distance thing usually didn’t work. Luckily I was smart enough to stay behind and finish my education. I had to let him go.
So…Rick left that Summer, and I began student teaching in the Fall. I taught 2nd and 4th grade, and I actually loved it (it wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t what I wanted). Rick was 4 1/2 hours away through Canada, and he and I would both take weekend trips back & forth to see each other. Our relationship became stronger and I slowly realized we were going to make it. We began to prepare for my big move to Michigan to start our life together.
In the meantime, I taught during the week, and I took on a job that Rick left behind because I needed the cash flow. This, unfortunately was not a good choice. My Mom begged me not to take the position, but I did against her will. I bar tended on Saturday’s from 12pm-8pm (this is where I learned the Buffalo wing recipe). I knew the great money Rick had made, so I thought it would be perfect for me 1 day a week. It was a small dive (dump) that had mostly regulars that time of day. I was alone most of the shift. No boss, hardly any customers, and I could even grade papers on occasion. Perfect, so I thought.
Well…here comes the bad part. Rick drove in one December afternoon and came directly to the bar where I was completing my Saturday shift. I had just lost my Grandmother, whom I was very close with so it was a stressful month between my emotional state and student teaching. It was wonderful to see his kind, loving, smile and I was on top of the world when he would come. He made everything better We made plans with friend’s that night after I was through with my shift at 8pm. Until then, I raked in the tips (joking) and Rick had a couple beers and wings while we all watched football on the high TV screen. It was 7:30pm, dark, and I was excited to spend the night with my love. I had 30 minutes left, and we were in a great mood.
That mood quickly changed. The bar was very dim except for the Christmas lights and beer signs. There were 2 couples playing pool in the corner, 2 people sitting at the bar beside Rick. I was heading to the corner of the bar away from Rick when the door that I remember had a diamond shaped window in it, swung open quickly, and loudly. Two ski masked men rushed in with guns pointed out at all of us yelling ”GET DOWN!!” My first thought was that it was a joke. I think I actually smiled at them. I quickly realized it was not a joke. One of them came around to where Rick was on the floor and started kicking people to hurry up and hand over their wallets (Rick had left his wallet in his car which really could have been bad). Meanwhile, I got down and put my hands on my head hoping to protect myself. I stayed down until that same man came around the bar to me and was banging his gun on the cash register above me to get it to open. Yelling, “How the …. do you open this thing!?” Meanwhile, his partner was screaming at me as well to stay down, so I was confused as what to do. I eventually laid back down and covered my head hoping they weren’t going to shoot anyone. I didn’t move, or breathe, I just wanted it over. I wanted to melt into the dirty floor so he couldn’t see me. The man finally forced the register open and continued on while grabbing my wallet and tips from the tip jar.
My thoughts: Where is Rick? Was he still on the floor waiting like me? Did they hurt him? Were they gone? …………Are they coming back? Am I alive?
Then the crying and yelling began. The woman that was sitting close to Rick was hysterical and crying for her children that were at home. I went to her and hugged her and reassured her that they were fine. Rick was running around talking with everyone trying to figure out what to do and if everyone was ok. There were no cell phones then, and they had cut the cord on the pay phone. Rick and another guy decided to run after these guys (what bravery), then thankfully they gave up and called the police at a near by store. The police showed up and it was right about then that I realized I had wet my pants. I was in shock and didn’t know it. We were safe, but we would never be the same again.
We gave the police our story, I had a stiff drink, and I quit. We went to my Mom’s house afterward and had to tell my parents what had happened. I have never seen my Mom so angry. She pounded her fists on the floor and asked God why such a terrible thing had to happen to her baby. As a Mom now, I understand the pain she felt. I’ll never forget the anger in my Dad’s eyes as well. So very painful to see.
They never found the bastards, and I never found my wallet. Rick and I went searching for it the next day in that parking lot. It was red, and had my license in it. At first this didn’t phase me, but after Rick went back to MI and I went back to teaching, I would wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if they were coming back for me. Classic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I carried that fear for months, but it slowly faded. 20 years later I suffer from mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which I believe was triggered by the robbery. Please don’t worry about me though-I am doing quite well.
The robbery stripped me of the imaginary bubble I thought I was in. I learned instantly that everything can be taken from you at any time.
I share this story for mainly 3 reasons…
First, for me. It’s absolutely the best therapy I have ever had. To share this story with you takes me back to the horrible night and reminds me how thankful I am to be here. Even after this long period of time, the horrible memory is clear, and it will always be there. It’s up to me to find the good in it. This is my good.
Second, I hope it brings awareness. This can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Today, I am always on my guard, and prepared. When out I try to be very careful with my choices especially where my children are concerned. I lock doors, use my alarm, and pay attention to my surroundings. I never want to be in that helpless, horrifying position again. I should have listened to my Mom. I’m not saying don’t live…just be aware. Take precautions and never think it can’t happen to you.
Third, more awareness. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that can be triggered by stress, it can also come and go. My symptoms weren’t typical OCD symptoms, like washing hands or checking doors. I struggled with a constant urge to organize and control my environment. I attended therapy long ago and learned how to treat my mild symptoms successfully. I am happy to say I am almost symptom free today. Unfortunately, many people are not, and live with OCD suffering badly. Lots of folks make jokes about OCD when in fact they don’t understand what it is, and the jokes are cruel. Being a clean, or organized person does not mean you have OCD. For more information, please visit http://www.ocfoundation.org.
Stay safe & be thankful,