Burglary #2- The Day We Ran For Our Lives

“He won’t come back,” they said. “You have nothing to worry about.”

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!”

“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.

Burglary #1- Waking Up to Find My Home Was Invaded

I noticed that the back door was unlocked. I froze.  Someone had been in our house.  Someone may still be in our house. 

Preface: My world was turned upside down last year when my home was burglarized.  I don’t mind talking about it, except that most people just don’t get it.  Or they make ignorant comments like, “Oh, so I should come to your house in the middle of the night huh?” Do not joke about coming into my home uninvited because I assure you I am ready now, and it will not end well for whoever is coming through the glass.  So in an attempt to be understood, here’s what happened.
I woke up around 6:30am.  Since I had just moved in four days before, we were still living between two bedrooms.  We slept in the bedroom upstairs to the right, but all our clothes and belongings were upstairs to the left.  I walked past the stairs and the bathroom, and as I turned on the light to the storage bedroom, I was instantly confused to see most of our dresser drawers were open.  Some clothes were rummaged through, but it wasn’t a total mess.  I chose to ignore my first instinct and assumed that Seth was a slob.  He had come to bed around 4:00am, waiting for his energy drink to wear off.  We had changed the furniture and layout of the house so much in the few days I had lived there, that I thought he must’ve been exhausted and confused about where his clothes were.  So, I gathered what I needed for a shower, closed the dresser drawers, and took a quick shower.

I got dressed and went downstairs to start boiling some eggs for breakfast.  I turned right into the first-floor hallway and noticed that downstairs was mostly dark except for the stove top light in the kitchen and a small table lamp in the living room.  I entered the kitchen to find the pantry door, the refrigerator, and several kitchen cabinets were wide open.  I think I may have even laughed out loud at this point thinking that Seth left the entire house a mess when he came to sleep just a few hours before.  I closed everything, started boiling some eggs, and began to go back upstairs to finish getting ready for work.  When I turned in the hallway to go towards the stairs, I noticed that the back door was unlocked.

I froze.  I adjusted my body in the hallway, so my back was up against the wall and I faced the dark bathroom in front of me and both sides of the hallway leading to the back yard and the front door.  Someone had been in our house.  Someone may still be in our house.  As I glanced toward the front door, I realized my purse was missing from the couch.  When I looked towards the back door, one of my teaching bags from the living room was turned upside down in the floor.  When I looked straight ahead into the pitch-black bathroom, I was paralyzed with fear that the intruder was hiding inside.  I’m not sure how long I stood in the hallway trying to analyze what had happened and what was going to happen.  It felt like an eternity before I could make myself move.  I wanted to scream and wake Seth up, but I was afraid that if someone was still in the house, it would expose me even more.  I took a deep breath and ran up the stairs as fast as I could, pulling myself up with the handrail.

I jumped in the bed, making sure I was still facing the door in case someone was following behind me.  I shook Seth awake and tried to calmly say, “Honey, did you go in the backyard for any reason before you came to bed?”  He groggily said no.  “I think someone has been in the house.  The back door is unlocked and lots of things were messed up, but I just thought it was you.” Seth jumped up within seconds and asked if I had cleared the house.  “Of course not! I ran up here to wake you as soon as I fully realized what happened.”  We started rummaging around the room for something we could use as a weapon.  Seth grabbed an empty B.B. pistol, and I think I grabbed some scissors.  Room by room, we went together with him leading the way and checking every nook and cranny of the second floor; we were clear.  As we moved down the stairs, we resembled police officers on television.  We were pressed up against the wall and quickly peeking around the corner to try and stay hidden.

Seth turned left toward the back door to clear the back bedroom.  He turned on the light and yelled, “He came in through this room.  The window is wide open, but I think he’s gone.” We quickly moved through the rest of the first floor- the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, and all the closets; and we were still clear.  I think I subconsciously wanted to be away from any doors or windows because we ended up in the kitchen again trying to figure out what to do next.  I called 911, but it was a very difficult conversation.  I hadn’t gathered my thoughts; saying out loud that someone broke into our home while we were asleep caused me to freak out even more.  I hardly knew the new address since I had just moved in.  And we had no idea what had been taken.  The 911 operator told us to gather our thoughts and a list of what we were missing and that an officer was on the way.

We did another run through of the house and discovered that my purse and my laptop from the living room, Seth’s phone from the storage bedroom, Seth’s checkbook and an unopened bag of Cheetos from the kitchen were missing.  Unfortunately, my purse included my keys, my spare car key, my wallet, my social security card (because I planned to change my name that very day), and my USB drive that had my entire work life and book proposal on it.  Seth decided to charge his phone in the storage bedroom because, “who needs an alarm clock when you have a wife now.”  It took us a few days to realize the checkbook was missing when Seth realized his bank account was overdrawn.  And I can only assume that the intruder was high and needed the Cheetos for a snack.

The next few hours included us calling into work, breaking the news to my parents, changing all the locks, calling various banks to cancel my accounts, and setting up identity theft alerts, etc.  My car keys were stolen, so we couldn’t use my car.  It had to be towed and re-keyed for a pretty penny that day.  Seth had his car keys but no car because it was in the shop for maintenance.  My parents, as always, came to the rescue.  They brought both of their cars so we wouldn’t be stranded at the house.  Mom also brought an old iPhone for Seth to use since his was taken.  Dad checked out the safety of the rest of the house.  The intruder came in through an unlocked window in the first-floor bedroom.  Literally the same day that Seth and I got married, his last roommate moved out of that particular bedroom.  What moron doesn’t lock their windows in the Highlands is beyond me.  But then we discovered that nearly every window in the entire house was unlocked.  Men are just incredibly different than women.  So note to anyone who moves into a new home- don’t assume that the windows are locked.

Regardless of the difficulties of that day and the days that followed, Seth and I were safe.  I can’t remember if our bedroom door was locked that night, and it is difficult to stop the mental what-if game, but we were unharmed.  The responding police officer also found my USB drive in the backyard.  It was cracked from being stepped on, but I was able to recover all my work.  These positive thoughts were fleeting though, and soon paranoia crept in.  I felt like our house was watched and targeted.  Two young strong guys moved out the same week a young woman moved in; the timing seemed crazy.  I had business cards with my blog information in my purse when it was stolen.  I was scared that the intruder would try to learn more about me, so I completely deleted my blog.  Seth built a furniture blockade in front of the window in that back bedroom and in front of the back door.  We pushed the sofa in front of the front door before we went to sleep every night.  We put shot glasses in the windows, so we could hear it break if someone managed to get in.  I asked Seth to clear every inch of the house each time we came home and every morning when we woke up.  I even convinced my parents to change the locks at their house because my stolen ID had their address, and my key to their home was taken too.  I cried multiple times a day in fear that he would come back.  I laid awake many nights listening for him to come back.  Everyone I spoke to assured me that burglars never come back.

Until two weeks later on a Wednesday afternoon, they (notice the plural), came back.