Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Life changing moments

In 1973 I was a 5 year old kindergartner. My family and I were driving back from a restaurant for dinner. My 1 year old brother was in the front seat of our blue Buick sedan in his car seat. The front seat is where they put kids back then so you could be closer to your child. The fact we even HAD a car seat in 1973 is probably a shocker to many. My mom and I were in the back seat while my dad was driving.

The road we were on was an expressway. Lawrence Expressway to be exact. It was normally very busy but for some reason that night I remember there weren't a whole lot of cars. We were in the far right lane, going to turn right at the next road. I remember it being light out, maybe 6pm. I was in school at the time so it was during the school year, not summer.

A man stepped out into our lane from the bushes on the side of the road. My dad naturally slowed down so as not to hit this man. The man lifted his arm and pointed a gun at us. A handgun. A black handgun. It took a couple beats before we realized what he had pointing at us. By the time we realized it was a gun we were pretty close to him. My mom told my dad to back up which he began to do, but the man said "don't back up or I'll shoot". My mom and I ducked into the back seat. Alan, my brother, was right in his line of sight. My dad stopped. The man said "get out of the car". My father, mother and I got out. My mother went to the front seat to get Alan out but her nerves and the buckles wouldn't cooperate and she was having a difficult time getting him out. The man said "you have 1 minute to get him out or I'm taking him with me". She got him out.

Now we're standing in Lawrence Expressway lined up facing the man with the handgun. I noticed his hand was bleeding. His thumb was hanging. It wasn't completely attached to his hand. The man said "give me your money". My mom tossed him my dads wallet & made my dad give him his watch too. My mom would tell me later how scared she was he'd take my brother or I, so she offered everything she could.

I whispered "what are you going to do to us". No one heard me.

I remember seeing a green pick-up truck driving in the other direction on Lawrence Expressway. I remember seeing their faces looking at us as we stood in the street with this man pointing a gun at us. I don't remember any other cars on the road, even though I'm sure there were.

The man took my dads wallet, watch and keys and drove off in our car.

I'd been quiet as a mouse during the entire episode, but once he left I was frantic and freaking out. I began bawling hysterically. My parents and I began walking towards the intersection when the green pick-up came up next to us. They had seen what happened and made a U-turn at the closest intersection. We loaded up into the back of their truck. They asked where did we want to go? We didn't have house keys. They were on the key chain with the car keys. At the time we only had the 1 car. My dad, or maybe my mom, suggested they take us to our old house we owned and rented out to a nice family.

I remember when they called the police. I remember the nice lady of the house offering me a red type of candy but I was too upset to accept it. I remember 2 policemen came asking questions. I remember spending time in their backyard while all this was happening.

Someone brought us home. I can't recall if it was the family in the green truck but I think it was. I want to say it was. My bedroom was in the front of our house and thankfully the window was cracked. My job was to climb through the window and unlock the front door. I did.

Days later we got our Buick back. It had blood all over the front seat from his hanging thumb. Apparently his gun was jammed and he sliced his thumb open trying to get it to function. The gun did not work.

The Mercury News would report later that he was a 17 year old runaway from Los Angeles who wanted to kill his girlfriend in Gilroy. The cops caught him before he succeeded. They misspelled our last name in the article.

For sharing that week I brought the news article to school and told the story.

Some time later my mom and I were driving to a store. We were in a left turning lane and our Buick died. I was in the back seat. I began to panic, crying and basically freaked out. I remember my mom trying to calm me but I would have none of it. We walked across to the gas station and called my dad. For many years whenever our cars would blow a water hose, the radiator would overheat or we'd get a flat tire, I'd get extremely upset.

To this day I have a fear of being in a broken down car, stranded.

Life changing moments.


Kate said...

wow. I don't think you've ever told that story. What a horrible thing to have to go through. I'm so thankful the man did not do anything physically to you, though I imagine mentally speaking he did a number on the whole family.

wow. I don't even know what to say. What a terrifying experience.

Sandra said...

It was terrifying. Now that I'm a mom I think about how my mom must have felt. She was so afraid he'd take me or my brother.

Kate said...

I think being the mom or you in that situation, I would have had nightmares over it.

I am still in shock over it, and I'm just the one who's reading it. That is one life altering story. Almost like a movie, not real life.