We walked, my girlfriends and I, as tourists, through the streets. Approaching us half a block away, were two young boys. Teenagers. One I would even say was less than a teenager. As they walked closer, I remember thinking, they should not be walking around with that toy gun. Someone might think it is real. They could get hurt.
Everything went into slow motion from that last thought. I heard him say "Give me your money, or I will shoot you". I looked at his awkward stance, and how oddly he held the gun, like he almost felt unsure of what he was doing. His hand was shaking. I looked, for just an instant, at his eyes. He was scared. I saw it. He squinted, and looked down. The smaller boy stood behind him, not really knowing his role in the whole thing.
My friend who was by the road ran. She took off, running directly into oncoming traffic, desperately trying to stop a car to help. This left me, and my childhood friend, Lisa. I tried for a second to move toward the street, but he came right at me, clicked something on the gun, and put it right into my stomach. He said it with more anger now. " I will shoot you". He took the nose of the gun, and opened up my bag with it, which I was wearing around my body. He spotted my wallet. I slipped my hand into my purse, removed my wallet, and handed it to him. He looked back into my bag, as if I had more to offer. I said "The wallet has $100.00 and a credit card in it. Take it. It's yours". I thought, you are not taking my purse. It has my keys to my apartment in New York in it. For a nano-second, I even thought about the expense of a locksmith, and how I just wouldn't be able to swing that.
For a while after that experience, I lost a little faith in people. I went from walking around the streets of NY with confidence, to now thinking anybody, at any time, could bring me harm. I would walk home from work, and see groups of teenage boys, and my heart would race. My mouth would suddenly taste metallic, and I would get an urge to vomit.
It took a long time to not doubt people. I still have my days where I drive around, and I feel it. I feel people's anger in the aggressive manner in which they drive. How someone almost crashes into me, and I get flipped off. Just last Spring, we were driving by Target, right here, in my town. David pulled out of a gas station, and apparently, someone thought he pulled out too close in front of him.
Do you know, that man, driving a green mini-van, with his wife and kids in it, turned his car around, and chased us down. He got out of his car, when we were stopped at a red light, and was moments away from attacking us, had David not pulled off the road, and blown through the light. It shook us for days. Literally days. I saw his eyes. I looked right into his, as I was screaming at him to leave us alone. I will never forget his face.
But the last few days have been an experience for me that I never known. I am amazed. I am in awe. I am feeling ashamed of myself for thinking that most people didn't care. It's simply not true.
The emails, and comments I have received have been overwhelming. The good people... people right here in my own town, going through exactly the same thing my family is, and believe, most are going through far worse, is just mind boggling. The stunning stories people have confided in me, are jaw dropping. I was in a haze yesterday, reading, and thinking about these people all day. All night actually.
Connections. People. Strangers reaching out to one another. It is so beautiful to see. It makes me love the place that I call home, right now. It makes me want to do better. Not just for my family. But for everybody. It makes me feel bad that I was focusing on the bad apples.
Because there are only a few of those. And from the stories that so many of you have shared with me, and all of the awful struggle happening silently, I know I am in good company.