Finding the silver lining after violence strikes

November 11, 2008

It has been a year since the night that I woke up to frantic knocking at my door at 4 a.m.  It was our daughter, Shari, with her two children, Elise, who was 5, and Lance, just one, standing, shivering, at our door.  “Our house was broken into, can we stay here, mom?”, Shari told me in tears.

Shari had woken up about 2 a.m. from the sound of an angry voice shouting profanities in her front yard.  Kelley, her husband, was working out of town that week, so Shari was alone with the children that night, and immediately she called the police to report the disturbance.  As she listened from her upstairs bedroom to the angry voice getting louder and closer, she knew that the person had moved onto the front porch attached to their house.  A moment later she heard shattering glass from the picture window breaking, and could hear the screaming voice downstairs inside her house.

Terrified for the safety of her children and herself, she instinctively grabbed a sheet and sleeping bag, her cell phone, and a child under each arm, ran to a window that opened onto the back porch roof, and scooted out the window and onto the roof.  She dialed the police again, was told they were on the way, and to stay put on the roof until help arrived.  The temperature was below freezing, and Shari wrapped the sheet around all of them, dropped the sleeping bag onto the ground to break their fall in case they would have to jump, and held onto her children for dear life, wondering if the angry voice would come upstairs and onto the roof after them.

Those long, terrifying minutes until help arrived felt like hours on that cold rooftop to Shari.  She remembers praying for God to protect her babies, and the voice of the kind dispatcher who kept talking on the phone with her.  And being amazed at little Lance, who was 13 months old and spent every waking moment on the move, sitting perfectly still in her lap like a little angel, not moving a single muscle.  When the police arrived, they first helped Shari and the children off the roof and into a warm squad car, and then went into the house to find the intruder.  Inside, the police found a young male, in his underwear, in the kitchen – sleeping on top of the refrigerator!

In the police reports, it was noted that the intruder was highly intoxicated, and thought he had come home to his own house; found the door locked so broke the window to get into his house, then proceeded to climb onto a stool to climb onto the refrigerator to go to bed in his bed.  He removed his shoes on the porch outside before climbing through the broken window!  Strangely, because he was intoxicated and thought it was his own house, he could not be charged with breaking and entering, only trespassing and damage to property.  It doesn’t seem right that an assault so traumatizing to the victims is lessened for the perpetrator by his state of inebriation, does it?

The intruder who fell asleep on the refrigerator was news on the local radio stations.  The story was told as “news of the weird”, not hardly the violating, traumatizing event that Shari and her children experienced.  Shari, Kelley and the children moved in with us for the following six months, as Shari was too scared to sleep in their own home after the break in.  As often happens to the victims, Shari has suffered from post traumatic stress and anxiety following the incident, but is now healing with the help of cognitive behavior therapy.

When I look for the silver lining in this cloud, I can see some affirming changes that have come from it.  I am so proud of Shari for doing what she had to do to keep her children safe, and the realization for her, that she did it instinctively, without thinking, has encouraged and strengthened her as a parent.  She feels certain today that any mom would do the same as what she had to do that night.

Shari and Kelley have relocated and live much closer to us now.  We have watched with amazement at the wondrous hand of God taking care of all the details involved in the relocation; details that had the real estate agents marveling, and stating that it just doesn’t happen this way.  They have a warmer house, a quieter neighborhood, friendlier neighbors, a pretty countryside view, and a big yard for Elise and Lance to play in.  A year after the break in they are closer as a family, and counting their blessings in their new home.

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