General Nursing, International Nursing, Psychiatry

Terror at Night

July 23, 1978 – Midwest, USA

My apartment mate, Jane, and I drove separate cars to evening worship at church followed by a sweet time of fellowship at the Pastor’s house with the other young adults. Since Jane left a few minutes before me, she left our front door unlocked for me when she arrived home and then got in the shower. When I showed up a little later, I saw our neighbors, Dave and Darlene, standing on our porch. I said, “Is there something wrong?”

“We just heard Jane scream so we called the police. We’re trying to get inside to help her, but the door is locked. Can you unlock it?”

With shaky hands, I tried to put my house key in the lock. All of a sudden, a tall thin black man flung open the door, pointed my butcher knife at me and shoved me down the three cement porch steps. He bolted off into the night. I stood up and the three of us ran inside and screamed, “Is there anyone else upstairs, Jane? Are you OK?”

She replied, “I’m alone! I’m coming down.” She came down the stairs in her bathrobe and frantically told us the burglar had grabbed her out of the shower and cut her legs with my kitchen butcher knife. When he demanded all her money, she emptied her wallet of the only bill she had, all of $5. He grabbed her watch and then ran down the steps after he heard us outside.

I cleaned and bandaged Jane’s cuts on her legs, and she got dressed. The police finally arrived thirty minutes after our neighbors called them. They asked Jane and me to get in the back of the cruiser to drive through the neighborhood to look for the burglar. We saw no one in the inky black night. We called Jane’s brother and my sister, (who were now engaged), and they called our Pastor. While waiting for them to arrive, I took Jane to the emergency department to have her cuts sutured.

When Kevin, Marsha, and our Pastor arrived, they read Psalm 56 and 37 to us and prayed with us. How God’s precious word comforted us.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Psalm 56:3-4

“The end of the wicked shall be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him.” Psalm 37:38-40

With no sleep all night, we both called in sick the next morning, We reported to the police station and tried to identify the burglar. The detective brought us dozens of mug shots to examine. After looking at all the photos, we picked out the six who looked most like him. Jane, of course, got a much better look at him than I did. At the end of the ordeal, we were both trembling uncontrollably from head to toe. The kind detective volunteered to follow us home and search our apartment to see if he had returned.

The detective also told us that we lived in the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in the city, full of drug dealers and prostitutes. We felt so naive because we grew up in the country where crime was almost nonexistent. Noone in the countryside locked their doors at night, but we would always secure ours going forward. I also never mounted my knife rack on the kitchen wall. Upon the detective’s advise, we moved to a safer neighborhood with a security system two months later.

Reflection

Belize dinner 1988
Dinner with the Medical team in Belize, 1988, before our nighttime scary walk to the Hotel.

In 1988, I went on a short-term medical mission trip to Belize in Central America. Another nurse and I were assigned to a ramshackle hotel for our housing.  After we ate dinner with the medical team, we walked several city blocks in the dark to get to our hotel. About half way there, the town had a power failure and all the streetlights went out leaving us in total darkness except for our tiny flashlight. When we arrived at our hotel, we ascended the outside steps to the second floor and walked down the narrow balcony hallway lined with men leering at us. We both prayed silently and asked God to protect us while looking straight ahead.

With relief, we arrived at our room and bolted the door behind us. How we thanked God for delivering us. Then Jen shared with me how she had been brutally beaten by a robber in her home years before. I shared with her about the night Jane and I were attacked. We once again read Psalm 56 and 37 together followed by prayer and asked God to give us a quiet heart and put a hedge about us. Neither of us slept much that night because of the reggae band blaring loud music beneath our bedroom, but God protected us.

Later in my career, I worked with many patients who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and struggled with nightmares and flashbacks. I remembered how it took me months to recover emotionally from the attack in 1978. Whenever I become afraid, I read my Bible and ask God to comfort me, and fix my mind and heart on Him.

 

 

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