The week of terror really began for me on Wednesday, June 8 with a large and unexpected car bill that came about from simply being in the wrong place, at the wrong time and all while working for a client. Not elaborating, but no serendipity or good fortune here!
This left me in a sour state at the end of that week. Then on Saturday morning, June 11, I woke to hear about the singer Christina Grimmie who was shot and killed the night before after a concert at The Plaza Live theater in Orlando. Ironically I had just driven by the entertainment venue on Wednesday. Hmm, sad story.
Saturday afternoon, I was working at my desk at 3:00 PM when I noticed that a police helicopter kept circling over my block. My desk faces the window so I can see the sky, trees and a bit of the large retention pond on property. I could see him repeat the same tight circle over my street, over and over again. The continual whirring was getting on my nerves, besides also hearing approaching police sirens. I knew this meant nothing good.
At 3:25 PM I got up and went to my bedroom window, which would give me a view of the parking area and anything going on outside. To my dismay there was a police car, two officers and one huge bloodhound dog right outside my building! A police car is strategically blocking the exit to the main road. Oh no, not on my street! Surveying the scene, I also noticed a black car parked 12 feet from my gate that did not belong there. In fact, that parking spot belonged to an older woman very possessive about her parking spot! Hmm.
The police had the dog sniff the inside of the strange, black car and I thought, ah! doggie will track down the fleeing perpetrator! More police appear, one with a very large rifle! The tune to “Bad Boys, Bad Boys” starts going through my head. Ironically, a dove, the universal symbol of peace, lands on my roof and starts cooing. I suppose he was trying to diffuse the mood of the situation.
It’s now 4:30 PM, I want to work on my projects and I also am getting hungry for dinner, but I’m on a stakeout! 4:45 PM I stepped outside to ask the two nice policemen standing outside my door, what’s up? The story was that the black car had been carjacked at gunpoint and police had tracked the carjacker here. Had I seen anything? Oh wow, no, but the woman who owns that spot will be mad when she comes home! Look! Here she comes! She had to park very far away and she has difficulty walking.
Meanwhile, while everyone is in suspense on my street, there was drama going on two buildings behind me. I got the full story from an eyewitness two days later.
The armed carjacker had abandoned the stolen car in front of my place, run down the sidewalk alongside my building and was knocking on doors in the buildings behind me seeking a place of refuge. I am SO glad he did not seek refuge with me! He finally picked up a heavy object that was on a patio and used it to break the glass sliding door to enter the kitchen of one unit. The tenant in the living room heard the crash and ducked behind the sofa to hide. He saw the gunman enter and was fearful that if seen he would be shot.
The gunman stood and listened to determine if anyone was home; thinking the coast was clear, he stepped back outside for a minute. At this moment, the tenant took the opportunity to run up the stairs to the guest bedroom where his roommate was. They locked the bedroom door from the inside, and were frozen in fear when the gunman returned, came upstairs and tried the door but didn’t force it! They were locked in the bedroom for three hours while the gunman paced around upstairs between the other bedroom and the bathroom.
Back to my place, it’s getting close to 5:30 PM and my next-door neighbor comes out to see what is going on. At the same time, the woman who had to park so far away also showed up. I was telling the ladies what I knew when another officer approached us and told us to get inside for our safety. Yes sir!
Now the police were stringing up crime scene tape to block off the car. Yes, they did tie a yellow plastic ribbon around an old oak tree! They also strung tape across the end of the parking area. My car was one of the very few trapped inside the lines. I’m so glad I didn’t have plans to go out that night.
I was wondering if they had strung the tape close across my gate and if I could exit on foot if need be, so I slipped cautiously out of my gate to see exactly where the tape was. Just then an officer in full camouflage gear and a really big rifle came around the corner! Scared the “bleep” out of me! I jumped back like a frog and said, I’m staying inside!
It was 6:00 PM, when I heard a voice over a bullhorn repeating: “This is the Orlando police, come out with your hands in the air.” O M G! He sounds close by, but I am not sure at what building they are standing down. I had been texting for the past two hours with two of my friends giving them the play-by-play. One friend had tuned into local news online and told me at 6:07 PM, “You’re neighborhood is on the news. He is apparently holding two people hostage.” Double O M G!
That’s when then gunfire started. I am now in a combat zone! Why am I hearing all this gunfire if he has two hostages? There was a great deal of noise and crashing sounds. What was happening?
Back in the upstairs bedroom where the two roommates cowered in fear, they had previously called 911 and alerted police to where the gunman was hiding out. The hostages became parched from the heat and from being scared for so long. I’m not even sure the gunman knew they were in that upstairs bedroom.
The police told the hostages that SWAT was going to crash through the patio fence and corral the gunman, and to be aware this was going to happen. The second roommate whispered, “When they crash through and cause a distraction, we are going to jump off the balcony onto the SWAT truck and get away!” (That’s a little crazy and I would have told the police I was going to jump, because it’s not good to startle the police!)
The SWAT truck crashed through the fence. The hostages shocked the police by jumping from the balcony onto the SWAT truck, and running away as fast as they could. SWAT tear-gassed the condo and captured the wounded gunman.
At 8:00 PM two State Troopers came by to take more photos of the stolen car. I called to them from my balcony and asked if they had captured the guy. “Yes,” the Trooper smiled. “You can sleep safe now and a tow truck is coming to take the car away.” I will be set free from crime tape soon!
Around 10:00 PM I figured things would be quieted down by now so I went outside and down the pathway to see if I could find where all the action had gone down. I found the location, but there was still a police presence, lights and a large truck, so I hid behind an SUV and quickly snapped a photo. I could see a knocked down fence, but because of the darkness could not see all the damage.
Whew! That ended my Saturday evening. The Trooper told me I could sleep safely now.
Sunday morning I awoke to a text from a friend with a link about a mass shooting. What? For a moment I thought they were writing about the Friday shooting. I already had enough shooting on Saturday! Then I clicked on the link and read the news with horror. I quickly turned on the TV to see the coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
I was stunned beyond words. I thought that I was going to have the big, exciting story to tell my friends, but in my drama fortunately there were no deaths. Sunday afternoon I went back to the condo where my police action had taken place and was amazed to see the damage in the daylight! I can assure you SWAT does not mess around! I wondered if the SWAT team that worked at Pulse was the same team who had been at my place only 12 hours earlier. What a weekend for Orlando SWAT!
On Monday, just by coincidence, I met my neighbor who had been held hostage and he gave me all the details I wrote above. I was certainly glad to learn the full story and give thought to how we always need to be aware of our surroundings and our safety.
Sunday’s massacre eclipsed my story by far. But this was too much violence – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each day that followed, along with everyone else, I was tuned to the news for more revelations about the terrorist and updates on the victims. As details emerged of bravery and compassion, and tragedy and heartbreak as families searched for their loved ones, everything felt surreal. When I turned on the national evening news and realized, oh, they are broadcasting from Orlando? Anderson Cooper is in town? This is crazy!
Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino – all those places were far away. No one ever thinks something like this would happen in their own town. I passed through the intersection where Pulse is located every week when I traveled to the east side of Orlando. Seeing online news coverage of cities around the world showing their support to Orlando – #OrlandoStrong – #PrayForOrlando – #OrlandoUnited – was extremely eerie and surreal – like a very bad dream.
I had a friend send me a message via Facebook, “Are you Safe?” I was also hoping that a friend of mine had not been at the club. I marked myself Safe and saw other Friends, including that one, marking themselves as well. Who would have thought I would ever have to do that? I never imagined I would change my Profile Photo to reflect a tragic national incident. I posted: “More Love. Less Hate.”
This incident is drawing a line in the sand and revealing people for who they are inside. Comments I’ve seen posted online, cruel texts I’ve been made aware of, written by people that I know, make me know who I want to remain friends with and who I don’t want to be friends with. I just can’t fathom the hatred shown by so many. Yet also there is love and compassion flowing as strangers reach out to their fellow human beings and honor the memory of those who were killed.
Why is it so easy for these things to happen in America? Isn’t obvious there need to be changes?
Why do humans never seem to learn?
That which humans do not understand, that which is different, they fear and hate. We’ve seen it all through history, man’s inhumanity to man. When do we learn that ALL humans bleed red? Underneath, we all have a soul, a spirit, we all deserve respect.
Then on Wednesday we had the Disney gator incident. Sigh.
I got a text about that. I said, that’s it, that’s enough grief for one week! No more bad news!
We are wounded in spirit, but we will survive.
We are #OrlandoStrong. We are #OrlandoUnited.
What the world needs is: More Love. Less Hate.
Are you hating or are you loving?