Monday, April 1, 2013

Safe Enough

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.  


  1. Thank you, so much, for sharing this A/B. I do hope others might take necessry steps to make their dwellings more that they are safer. It is all very scary. I will be alone again tonight for the first time since the 'event.' Funny, I find it easier to use that word instead of the more accurate 'home invasion'. Should anyone one want to read some suggestions for home security, they can find them on my blog entry.
    Thanks again for helping to spread the word...and for your kindness.

  2. OMG, this is quite scary. I didn't even think of the purse with the keys in it. We always think of the big things being taken like TVs, jewelry, money and not the small things that can allow an intruder to get in again. Sharon, I hope you find some peace knowing your house is more secure. I'm going to head over to your blog too and take your suggestions on how to make my home more secure.

    AB and Sharon, thanks for sharing with us.

    Megan xxx

  3. I read a really well written, interesting, and compassionate long-form human-interest news story on this topic just last week. I am linking it here with some hesitation, and a major caveat - If you think this may be overwhelming, please exercise caution. It is a well done piece of journalism, speaking to a dozen survivors of a 15 year old tragedy.

    Please read with care, but if you can read without adding to your own burdens I do recommend it.

  4. Post traumatic stress is very real and a home invasion is a very real risk that we all need to be aware can happen and do what we can to avoid-- but it may not be enough. Each person needs to decide what it will take to make them feel safe. I believe in awareness as a key to whatever steps anyone takes. Trying to think it can't be me won't help us when it happens it is. No matter what steps we take 100% security cannot be had in life-- never could. But we can do what is possible and then try hard to release the fear. I have always reacted when I hear a loud noise anywhere and it goes way back in my life. The world just is what it is and it has safer and less safe times. It seems to me that we are in one of the less safe and need to take the steps we can regarding that.


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