My life sentence
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 19:02
A lot of people have nightmares. You wake up relieved it was just a dream, take a deep breath and then forget about it. But my nightmares and my entire life changed forever last year. March 28 at 1:30 a.m., to be exact. The night I got robbed at gunpoint in my living room.
See, this wasn’t your typical robbery. These guys didn’t come bashing down my door wearing ski masks screaming at me. They waltzed casually into my South Campus house on Winspear Avenue.
I have to admit, I wasn’t very alarmed when they did. Everyone was always coming in and out of my house for one reason or another. I didn’t mind it. I used to consider everyone I met a friend. It was an actual friend, Kirsten Fine, who sat next to me on the couch that night while we did our homework. The funny thing is, before the guys came in, we were telling each other how happy we were with our lives.
Then the door opened. They stood before us clad in all black. One was sporting a DeBeer lacrosse bag. I happened to be a fan of the sport, so I was intrigued.
“What’s up, guys? You play lacrosse?” I asked them.
“Yeah,” they muttered while pacing around a bit.
“Oh yeah, me too! I’m pretty good actually,” I bragged playfully.
“Not as good as me,” one of them said while locking his eyes into mine. “I’m all-county.”
They both smiled. Something didn’t seem right at this point. Looking back, I should have realized these guys weren’t exactly coming from lacrosse practice.
They came in looking for my roommate; they kept bringing up her name. She wasn’t home. I didn’t know how to help them besides trying to call her. While the phone was still in my hand, I watched the larger of the two men unzip the lacrosse bag and pull out the gun.
Now, when I say gun, I don’t mean a paintball gun. I don’t mean a handgun, either. I mean a semi-automatic rifle with a green scope laser. I heard the click-click that until that moment was just a Call of Duty sound effect to me.
As my phone hit the floor, I could see nothing – nothing except a blinding green light and the menacing smile standing behind it. Looking back, I didn’t have time to make peace with any higher power. I didn’t have time to make a case for saving my own life. All I could do was watch the man’s finger caress the trigger.
I watched him move and point the gun at Kirsten. I saw the fear in her eyes and she saw mine. Before we could speak, they grabbed $15 and a little bit of pot that was lying on our disheveled living room table. They said “thanks” before sprinting away from my house.
Something inside me couldn’t let that be the end. Through all the confusion, I called 911. The police came almost immediately. Kirsten and I worked like investigators that night, stalking through Facebook and making phone calls to see if we could somehow come up with a face and a name.
And we did. Because of our quick thinking, the police found their address and moved in on them.
They found the rifle stashed outside and arrested the men who were hiding in their bedrooms with suitcases packed.
So the nightmare ends there, right? Far from it.
That night, my life was turned upside down and I will never be the same. Between pointing out the criminals, standing before a jury and the actual trial itself, there were so many odds and ends that had to be sealed. My parents didn’t want me in Buffalo. My family was petrified and so was I. But I think what hurt the most was the fact that many people who I had once considered my closest friends, people I would die for, just couldn’t understand – or didn’t want to.
I had to move midway through the semester, which, surprisingly, I was able to continue after going home for so long to deal with the trauma. After my move, there were a lot of people I lost touch with and a lot of things I was forced to change about my life. And I’m glad I did. Now I’m stronger and better than ever before. I know how to decipher between people who really care about me and people who don’t give a sh*t what happens. I make the right choices.
Occasionally, I have this nightmare that the guys are coming back for their revenge and it always ends with the pulling of a trigger pointed at me. I wake up shaking, crying and sweating, unable to sleep again. I hear the sound of a banging door or a firework and it sends me spiraling into this horrible place and I can’t stop reliving the moments when I thought my life would end before I got to see the age of 21.
If I could offer any advice, it would be to know the people you associate yourself with. Though it might be the more difficult thing to do, realize that you could be put in danger even indirectly by the choices you make.
Sometimes, it takes a loaded gun pointed at your head for you to get it. I do think my nightmares will end on March 12 – the day the prison doors will shut behind these criminals – and I get the closure I’ve been seeking for a full year now. They’ll be serving five to 25 years each. But because of the trauma they’ve caused me, I’ll be serving a life sentence.