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What to Do in an Armed Robbery
This article contains instructions on how to not protect your money, how to simply let it go. Let me explain. For several years during the '70s, my husband and I owned and operated a convenience store. It was not the typical convenience store, as it had a plant shop with hanging baskets and other trinkets in addition to the usual fare. We had two people who worked for us on weekends, but we filled the role of cashier during the week ourselves.
I always chose to work the night shift, from around 5:30 until closing at 12:00. I am a night person and don't become fully awake until mid afternoon. The store was right smack in the middle of a very affluent subdivision. Most of our customers were people who lived in the neighborhood, people we knew and had developed casual friendships with. Therefore, I felt no particular apprehension when, one night around 11:00, in anticipation of closing at 12:00, I began to load the walk-in cooler with beer and soft drinks. It's a chilly task and took usually 25 to 30 minutes after a busy night to complete. We had a beeper attached to the door, which made a loud noise every time the door opened. When I heard it go off around 11:15, I started toward the front of the store to wait on my customer.
Just thinking about it now still makes the hair stand up on my arms and my throat begin to close. As I walked out of the walk-in cooler, standing halfway between me and the cash register was a very tall man with a stocking over his head and a very large gun in his hand. "Get to the front and give me the money. The quicker you get up here and do it, the better for you." During those steps up to the register I was thinking: Well, he's probably going to let me live because he has the stocking over his head and knows I can't identify him. If he tries to make me go in the back -- where he might shoot me -- I'm going to sit down in the floor and not move. Is my life insurance policy paid up? Did I put out money for the kids' lunches? Why was the last thing I said to my husband that he's a pain in my ass?
They say your life passes before your eyes when you are threatened with death. That is not what happened to me. I was very much in the here and now and thinking about very practical things and hoping each had been handled. I remember thinking that I didn't want to die because I wanted to see my children finish college. Then I was at the register. "Take all the money out and put it on the counter." This is the point where I always thought I would be Annie Oakley and reach for the .38 we kept behind the counter. Let me say that that is the last thing in the world I thought of. All I wanted was to get out of this alive, period.
I began putting the money on the counter with shaking hands. "Don't throw the money up there; put it up there nice and neat. And stop shaking!" Well, naturally, this made me shake even more. Actually, I wasn't exactly certain who was shaking more, the robber or me. And that was my biggest concern. The masked man's hand was shaking so hard that the gun was moving all over the place. My biggest fear through the whole ordeal was that he would shoot me accidentally. I only had around $100 in the drawer, but a lot of it was in small bills; and it looked like more. I knew that this was an inexperienced robber because he never asked for the rest of the money. I had around $300 in a bank pouch on the floor. If he had asked for it, would I have given it to him? Oh, Lord, yes, every penny.
My plan, if he wasn't satisfied with the extra money, was to offer him the Jack Daniels, all the cigarettes he could carry and the bottle of very expensive scotch my husband kept to make himself a drink when he turned things over to me at 5:30. Wonder of wonders, he didn't even ask for more money. He scooped up what I had put on the counter from the register, shoved it in his pocket and headed toward the door. As he reached the door and opened it, he turned back to me and said: You're safe now.
This is where my husband and a lot of his friends said they would have taken the .38 and blown him away. And maybe they would have. I know it never crossed my mind. It's easy to talk about what you'll do, but when you're looking down the barrel of a gun held by a hand that's shaking as though the person has palsy of some kind, you might not be quite so brave. I won't say that I wasn't afraid during the time he held that gun on me. I'm sure I was, but mostly, I was pumped, hyper, thinking as fast as I could, and determined to leave that store alive. I felt like trying to shoot him reduced my chances of living. I didn't push the alarm button because I thought he would likely shoot me if he heard the police sirens when the cops responded. I don't know if I did everything right or wrong, but I know that I was 29 when what the robbery happened and I'm 66 now. So as they say on the TV show: I Survived.
The thing that has haunted me about that experience for years happened after it was all over. As soon as he was out of sight, I called the police. As I sat on the cashier stool, waiting for them, I was overtaken by the most wonderful feeling of love. It was as though a presence was all around me and was telling me I would always be safe. I have never felt more at peace than I was at that moment on that night so many years ago. That deep loving peaceful feeling, unlike anything I've ever felt since, lasted until I got home and went to bed. I felt it fading as I went to sleep that night. I have told this particular part of the robbery story to people I felt comfortable with, people I felt would understand.
Peace that Passes Understanding
Everyone has different ideas about what that feeling I experienced might have been. My husband, always the practical one says: You were just relieved he didn't shoot your ass. A dear friend says: That was your guardian angel, telling you that you were safe. A person in a group I belong to says: You had a near-death experience and felt the love from the other side. The consensus is that it was something more than just relief to be alive, that it was a spiritual moment of some sort. Eckart Tolle, in one of his books, talks about how sometimes we are so frightened that we can't think at all and that during that silencing of the chatter in our minds, Spirit fills the void with love.
I have my own belief about what happened that night. There has been a watching presence throughout my life that has made itself known to me in strange ways, finding of a lost diamond, manifestation of an animal, disasters avoided by a heartbeat, etc. I believe once again, that watching presence was surrounding me with love and protection as it always has. Was it God, an angel, a loved one, already crossed over and looking out for me? Was it a spirit guide? I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that as I was falling asleep that night and the feeling was fading, I heard a voice in my head that said: I'm always here.
They arrested the young man who robbed me the next week. He had robbed almost 30 stores in the area. I was told by the police that he was using the money to feed his girlfriend's heroin habit. I felt I should thank him for giving me one of the defining moments of my life, the moment that made me know that I am never alone. Now, every story needs a moral and I can think of a thousand for this one, but the thing that strikes me about all of it is that on the surface, it appeared to be an evil and dangerous event. However, the outcome was a moment of true enlightenment. So was it still evil or a path to good? Something to ponder.
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