“He won’t come back,” they said. “You have nothing to worry about.”
Everyone who heard about our first home invasion assured me that it was a one and done situation; that burglars rarely hit the same house twice. But I wasn’t convinced. I refused to go into the house and stay alone. Even when we would enter together, I asked Seth to clear the entire house including closets, showers, and under every bed. Paranoia and fear consumed me. I couldn’t get past the thoughts that we were targeted, that we were still being watched.
Two weeks had passed, and my mom offered to meet me at my house one afternoon so I could come home and make dinner before returning to work that evening. Dad dropped off Mom and Molly, our 12-year old wiener dog around 2:00pm. Before he left, he grabbed our baseball bat and cleared the house to make sure we were safe. Mom, Molly, and I sat down in the living room to hang out for a bit when all of a sudden there was a friendly knock at the door. “Knock, knock, knock knock knock… Knock—knock.” We looked at each other confused because Dad had literally just left minutes ago. There was another knock, and then the door knob started to rattle. There wasn’t a peephole, and we were both too spooked to look out the front windows right next to the door.
I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. We stood up and started pacing. Mom was holding Molly, who hadn’t even barked because she’s so hard of hearing. Something was wrong; we could both feel it. I texted Seth and said, “Someone is at the door. We don’t know who it is, but something doesn’t feel right.” Mom called Dad and asked him to turn around and come back. There was an eerie anticipation in the house. All of a sudden my mom frantically whispered, “I think someone is kicking in the back door.” Within seconds, we heard glass shatter, and someone was forcing their way in. “He broke the window! He’s coming in!”
For a brief second, both of my legs went numb. How is this even happening right now? How much time do we have? We don’t have a legitimate weapon. What do we do? I snapped back into reality and grabbed my keys which were still laying out on the couch from where we’d just gotten home. Our front door deadbolt had to be unlocked with a key, and I had to will power my hand to stop shaking enough to unlock the door. I flung the front door open and ran down the stairs. My car was parked on the street right in front of the house. As I ran, I got my car key ready for the manual locks. As soon as I jumped in my car, I flung the passenger door open as my Mom was running out of the house with her bags and Molly, still talking to my dad on the phone. As soon as she had both feet in the car, I took off down the street with the car door still open.
Before we reached the end of the street, I stopped. Where were we supposed to go now? I made a U-turn and parked on the opposite site of the street several houses down from mine. I called 911 at 2:03pm. I felt much more level-headed in this moment compared to when I called them for the first burglary. I emphasized that the intruder was still in the house and pleaded with them to send someone now. “I didn’t close the front door!” Mom screamed. Sure enough, the front door was wide open from when we ran. It didn’t feel safe to be on our street anymore. I drove past the house, and we couldn’t see anything going on inside. I parked around the corner facing away from the house but still within sight. The engine was still running, and I was still in drive.
We sat there watching the house and waiting for police to arrive. Suddenly I saw a man run out of my front door and stop on the porch. He seemed disoriented and confused, scanning his immediate surroundings. He was African American between 20-25 years old and around 5’6 or 5’7. He was wearing a black hoodie, gray sweatpants, and a black toboggan. It felt like he made eye contact with me from my car, and I hit the gas pedal like our lives depended on it. In my rearview mirror, I could see him running down the street in the direction where we were first parked. At some point in the middle of this, my dad had returned. He was parked behind our house watching the back door where he came in. Dad saw a second African American man around 6’0, 200 lbs and 30-years old; he was wearing all black—hoody, sweatpants, and toboggan.
Once we felt hidden several blocks away, I called 911 again to give an update and beg once again for police to come now. I called Seth while he was at work, “They came back and broke in the back window. Mom and I had to run. Now we’re hiding down the street in my car until the police come. Please come home. And I really can’t live here anymore.” I didn’t know what else to do while we waited, so I called the detective who was working on our first burglary to give him the update. I was word vomiting in his ear when my mom yelled out, “I’m not wearing any shoes.” We left in such a panic, neither of us realized she had been running in her socks.
The police finally arrived to our hidden location around 2:37, and we received a call at 2:41 that the house was cleared. It took the police 35-40 minutes to get there. Obviously, the men were gone. I was asked to go inside and check what was missing. I refused to go anywhere until an officer went in before me. The first floor looked untouched other than the multiple furniture barricades being knocked down. The back door was open, and the glass from the back window was shattered. When I got to our bedroom upstairs, everything had been ransacked. Drawers were open and rummaged through; the closets were open and our belongings were thrown all over the floor. I threw my phone on the bed and yelled, “I’m so #%$@ tired of this!” I turned around to see three police officers and both of my parents just staring at me in silence. I was angry, overwhelmed, and still had way too much adrenaline pumping through my veins. Thankfully I heard Seth come in the house so we were able to talk through this new report together. This time the burglars mostly targeted our bedroom, the only place they didn’t invade during the first burglary. They only stole Seth’s new phone and new checkbook, but they still ransacked the rest of the rooms upstairs.
The remainder of that day was a whirlwind. I vaguely remember aggressively telling the police officers to never tell burglary victims that intruders don’t come back… because they do. The CSI department came to the house and dusted for fingerprints but were unsuccessful. My dear coworker Mary Ann Riehl brought us boxes so we could pack up all of our belongings. She also surprised us with some snacks. Several generous church folks and friends came with their trucks and helped us pack up our entire life. Other wonderful friends met us at my parents’ house to help us unload there and then follow my dad to a storage unit for the larger furniture. Shout out to Matt Garner, Jon Caranna, Kevin Barnette, Tony Sanford, Alex Pierce, Tyler Tempel, Dale and Rhonda Jones, Chelsea and the Windhorst cavalry, and Warren Newberry. We were moved in with my parents by 7:00 or 7:30pm that evening, and we couldn’t have done it without these generous friends.
I didn’t sleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes I relived every detail from start to finish. Mom and I ended up texting some that night because she couldn’t sleep either. We ran for our lives that day. And we survived, but we are changed.