The above image could easily be from a natural disaster, such as the ones that most recently wreaked havoc in the country’s of Haiti or Chile.
They are not.
This is the image of the front of my town house from May 24, 2009.
No disrespect the the events of December 7, 1941 or September 11, 2001, but this is my day of infamy.
Most of you who know me tend to know that I am a fairly easygoing individual, that prides himself on treating people better than I treat myself. My shirt is yours, on the back or off. I don’t make a habit of talking too in depth about my life. This comes from being raised the youngest son of Depression Era parents. Nothing can rival the childhood stories of my parents rationing butter or rubber, or hearing them recall gasoline rations and bond drives. I tend to keep what is personal in my life exactly that…personal. This is not to say that I am withdrawn or melancholy by any stretch. I pride myself on being a rather friendly and outgoing person, preferring often to listen to the problems of others, rather then engage them with my own. The fact is, except for a small group of people, most would not even know that this incident is even in my past, let alone that it happened within the last 12 months.
My son was born on November 25, 2008. It was the single greatest day in my life. Not long after he was born, my wife and I began discussing the option of moving closer to family. As our families were at virtually opposite ends of the country (mine being in Maryland, and along the East Coast, my wife’s being primarily centered in Utah). After some long and sometimes agonizing discussions, we decided to move our small family to Utah to be closer to my wife’s parents. This is their one and only grandchild (so far), and we felt it important to now be near family for our son. So, on May 1, 2009, we began the three day drive from Alabama to Salt Lake City, UT.
We arrived in SLC, on May 4. We didn’t have an immense amount of time (less than 3 weeks) to procure housing, but thanks to my wife’s sister, we found a small, but quaint town house in an area close to downtown, and near just about anything we could imagine. The first 19 days of our new adventure went relatively well, there were the few unexpected bumps, but having moved myself a few times over the years up and down the East Coast, these were things that were inconvenient, but not insurmountable.
Our first holiday in our new city was Memorial Day. Grandma and Grandpa were making the trip up from Blanding, UT to spend a nice relaxing weekend with us, a day that they may have thought would never have come, and may have regretted later on that it did, considering the events that would transpire on the Sunday of that weekend.
It was May 24, and we had all enjoyed each other’s company during the day. Grandma and Grandpa were basking in the glow of having their first grandchild close enough now to enjoy and spoil on a regular basis. My wife had gotten a call earlier in the evening that she needed to work overnight on short notice, so she had gone to bed earlier in the afternoon to be prepared for the long night ahead. As was routine, she woke up and showered around 8:20pm, and I just stepped outside the front door to enjoy the cool evening air, while the Grandparent’s cooed and gah-gah’d-out our not quite 6 month old son.
Fresh air be damned. I noticed along the next building of town houses a large shirtless man adamant about gaining entry into one the residences, an older white-haired lady blocking his entrance.
She began to yell, “Someone call the police!”. So I calmly turned back into the house to use my cell phone, leaving the door slightly ajar.
My wife is standing in the kitchen with a plate of chicken for her late dinner, and my in-laws sit serenely with my son on the couch in the front living room. I make the call.
In a flash, as if Zeus himself has propelled her from Mt. Olympus, came a woman into my home through the door I had left lazily ajar. She frantically slammed my door and locked the deadbolt, heaving hot-breaths of anxiety into my living room. And like a tornado without a warning, the banging begins. She had gotten away from her husband that had been beating her, and found my door ajar to be the perfect place to find solace. That same door had now replaced her with his rage. He banged without abandon. I am now on the phone with 911, when it all, literally, comes crashing in.
A baby gate makes an unexpected and uninvited entrance through our front bay window with all the violence of a Soprano’s episode. He reached through the now shattered window to see if he can gain entrance. My floor and furniture littered with the little shards of surprise and fear. Realizing that climbing through a broken window may not be the best of options, he grabs a brick lining the outdoor flower bed to band in the door.
I am still on the phone with 911.
The door heaves, creaks, and cracks violently with blow after blow, but does not yield. It makes its last stand in sacrifice for my family. The woman runs into the kitchen with my wife and mother in law, while Grandpa rushes my now screaming son in his arms to the relative safety of an upstairs bedroom. The man now acquiesces to the front door in favor of finding some other entrance into my house. He runs to the back of the house and the door off the kitchen to the back yard. Full unpacked moving boxes stacked in front of the door bar his entrance. He frantically heads back to the front door to give one final attempt. Two bangs. Silence.
I am still talking to 911 this whole time.
Neighbors proceed to tell us that the aggressor is gone. I, not so politely, tell the neighbors that no one is coming out till I see the whites of a policeman’s eyes.
After 7 agonizing minutes, the attack is over. I only wish the residual emotional and psychological effects were so short lived.
I convey the situation to the police, an ambulance is called for the injured and shaking victim, crime scene photographers arrive and we spend, as a family, the next several hours finding glass in places that even a mouse would be hard-pressed to go searching for a morsel of food. The window has a piece of plywood placed over it, and I jimmie the door to, at least, be able to close for the night. The following morning the cylinder of the lock would fall apart in my hands like shattered plaster.
I now live in a crime scene.
The weeks that followed would find a litany of local official and law enforcement agencies visiting my house. You name them, we saw them. From Child Protective Services, to violence investigators, to the representatives of the District Attorney, they would file their way in and out of my house like some macabre chorus line.
It would take a month for the door and window to be fixed.
The man would be caught in a Lowe’s parking lot 4 days later, with 8 grams of Meth stuffed in his pockets.
I would face him in late June at a preliminary closed hearing in court. His wife would spend that time recovering in a hospital from her injuries.
I don’t think I slept for the first month after the incident. And if I did manage to squeeze in a few winks, my mind immediately projected the images of the event in altered forms on the back of my eyelids. The scenario playing out like a slasher film. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
I talked to very few people about the incident, not really knowing how to convey my fear, anger, self-loathing, and depression to anyone.
My wife is strong. Stronger than me.
This coming Wednesday, I will have to face this man in open court nearly a year from the event. The cold sweats sneak up on me like ghost. I find myself panicked and anxious. If were just me, I could be as calm as a Hindu cow. But it’s not just me. It is the lives of the ones I love the most, and the loss of them that drives my anxiety. But they are not among the losses. They are among the living. And the fact that the most my son will ever know of this event is possibly this post, brings a strange comfort.
So if you read this…thank you for listening. Your quiet eyes scanning this tale will bring more comfort than you will ever know.
And for that, I thank you.