Monday, April 15, 2013


We live in such a violent time. 

News footage, movies, television, music....we have become so used to it that we don't realize it's there. 

Today there was a bombing at the Boston marathon. People being healthy and pushing their bodies to the limits for 26 miles. All that training and effort and be attacked at your moment of victory. 

Strangely enough my favorite light hearted musical TV show was all about violence this week. If you are a fan of Glee you know what I'm talking about. A show normally devoted to teen angst and music, showed the fear of what could happen.

 I remember school shootings when I was younger. Before Colombine there was Lindhurst and before Sandy Hook there was Cleveland Elementary. Those were the school shootings of my youth. No where near as gruesome....but still very scary.

You see it all on television and think it will never happen to you. Those scary things only happen on TV and to other people. And then my breath stops and I struggle to catch it and I wait to hear the bang. It's the memory of that fear...and this is the story of 15 years ago today. 

I worked as a receptionist for a car dealership. 

"Thank you for calling Stockton Nissan Isuzu Jeep and Eagle, this is Dre how can I direct your call?"

I said that phrase a hundred times a day at work. The business I worked for was going under. Sales men would call and ask for their last checks. Vendors would call for payments. The bosses never wanted to talk. Because there wasn't enough money. 

A man had come in and purchased a car. He gave his deposit and drove away in a shiny new car. But a week later the dealership had to take the car back. He couldn't get a loan. But when they took the car back, they didn't return his deposit. 

The dealership didn't know about his history. They didn't know he had a chemical imbalance or that he had to be medicated. 

He called several times a day. He would ask to speak to the finance director, the sales man, the one would talk to him. His last calls were filled with threats and profanity. 

In the early afternoon my supervisor brought me his check. I knew who it was for and I was thankful to finally give him what he wanted. But he didn't call that afternoon. 

Everyday I would call my mom right before I was off work. I'd ask what was for dinner and tell her what plans I might have. 

I was talking to my mom when the finance manager came by my desk "Dre, call the police!" He was always joking I didn't take him seriously. When he came back a few seconds later he looked at me and asked

 "Is that the police?" 
"You were serious?"


I had dialed the number when the gun went off.

Tom grabbed me around the waist and ran with me under his arm like a football. When he reached the business office he tossed me inside and told me to lock the door.....I still had my headset on. 

When I plugged into the business phone console the 911 operator was there waiting.

Thirty men worked at that dealership. 29 made it out of the building. The gun man was holding one man as his hostage. There were five of us trapped in the business office. We couldn't leave because he was in the hall right outside the door. At one point he tried the door and we could hear him yelling. 

I gave 911 all of his information, he did buy a car after all. She told me I was doing a great job at staying calm. I remember laughing when she said that because I was so scared. The phones were still ringing so they took down our phone lines. Before they shut down the fax lines I tried calling my mom...but there was no answer. So I called by closest friend. 

"Kristy, I need you to do me a favor"
"I can't I'm late for work"
"Kristy, there is a man here with a gun..can you call my mom and tell her I'll be late for dinner" 
"Oh my god, Ok, I love you"

I reconnected with the 911 operator and she told me that we all needed to stay down, that SWAT had entered the building. 

After that there was a great rush  noise and yelling. Then silence. 

Then next sound I heard was a knock on the door. 

"This is the SWAT team, it's safe to open the door"

It was the coolest and scariest thing ever. To have the SWAT team surround you for your safety and escort you out of the building...protected by shields. We could see the gunman handcuffed on the ground. None of us could leave until we were interviewed by the police.

All the managers were sitting in the conference room when I walked through to get my purse. I looked at the owner and said "Roy, I quit". They all laughed, they thought I was kidding. 

When I got my purse I saw the check sitting there on my desk.....if only he'd just came to me. If only he hadn't stopped taking his pills...if only.

I didn't break until my dad opened the front door. They had been watching the news the whole time. I crumbled in his arms and finally cried.

I did go back when they offered me a raise...but it only lasted a few months. 
There are moments when I go into the bank just before closing or into a gas station at night and feel that fear. My breath stops and I struggle to catch it...and I wait to hear the bang.

News story of gunman at Stockton Auto Mall