A friend, a denizen, a GRIN donor, is alone most nights. Her significant other is a long distance trucker. Can you tell where this post is going? She heard a noise, investigated, found an open door, a missing purse, and her sense of security fleeing.
Home invasions get faster responses than burglaries. Since she'd told the dispatcher that the intruders had left, she waited for the police, waited for the police, waited for the police. There wasn't much that could be done after the fact, but having armed officers around helped ... just a little.... when they finally arrived.
Then, they left. She was alone, with a home she could not secure because her keys were in her purse and her purse was with the intruders. It was a very long night.
Both her home and her car had to be re-keyed. Installing an alarm system required reorganizing her computer system. Window coverings and deadbolts and security doors were examined and installed. Things were the easy parts to consider. Her sense of safety is an entirely different matter.
She wrote, in an email, that she thought, so often, what a puny event this was compared to yours but in my opinion, it’s plenty bad enough. I'm really glad she knows that. Acknowledging the enormity of the situation is, I think, the first step on the road to healing.
After the narcotics wore off and the Suzi-Sitters left, after the first rush of attention and concern was over, I was left with my own thoughts. I realized that I'd been spending an awful lot of time reassuring those around me that I was fine. I was alive, I would heal, the shooter was in custody. What had happened was awful, but it was over. I wanted to move on.
That proved to be impossible. Skinny white boys in hoodies made me shake, even when they were on the street and I was safely ensconced in a car driven by a friend. Loud noises set my heart pounding. I couldn't watch television; there were too many guns. The news was a safe haven, as long as it concentrated on the blizzard of 2011 or the Arab Spring unfolding in the Middle East. Human interest stories were avoided at all costs; the least hint of sadness put me over the edge.
My friend is still shaken. A neighbor came to her door and, not recognizing him at first, she went straight to panic mode. He held her, he reassured her, he stayed with her until she felt safe enough for him to leave. Safe enough..... that's where she is right now, and where I've been for the last two years.
I remember the days immediately following 9/11. Everyone was frightened. TBG and I ended up in a Lutheran Church for an interfaith service that night; we'd not been in a religious institution since the last nephew's bar mitzvah. There were prayers and songs and hugs and hand-shakes and we left feeling safe enough to go to sleep. Safe enough... it's really not safe at all.
As a social worker at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center, I would tell clients that the panic they were experiencing would dissipate over time. "Only crazy people stay in crisis for ever," was my mantra. Time would place a poultice over the fear, the uncertainty, the anxiety. The ability to function would return. Of this, I was certain.
I was so young, so very, very young.
Now, I'd phrase it differently. Now, I'd say that "You'll figure out a way to deal with it, you'll find a place to put it, it won't be front and center forever." Yes, the crisis will pass, but the feelings will remain. The lessons learned will keep her safer, but every time she locks those new deadbolts she'll remember why they are there. The memory's edges will soften, but that feeling in the pit of her stomach will, I fear, become a permanent feature.
I wish I had something more reassuring to share.