So Wednesday night while in baby class somehow the grocery store armed robbery came up.. and I was reminded of how raw that really still is for me.. even a year later.
Those of you who know me may already know this story, those of you who are regular readers may have heard me allude to it in the past.
Well the time has come for the whole story, maybe this will finally bring me some closure....
Last Fall was not a *good* time for me. I was very pregnant, and being me, that means I was humongous. By the end of November I was about 170 lbs... so you can imagine that is a lot on my frame. I was uncomfortable... and oh yeah I was stressed out. Kid had just had her second seizure and I was not sleeping (at all) due to the combination of unbearable heartburn, and unbearable grief. The end of my pregnancy was so stressful that I truly did fear I might somehow be damaging the baby and in fact I was under so much stress that I had been having regular contractions since September. I am not joking, hours of contractions 3-5 minutes a part several times a week. This situation was just about to get a whole lot worse... I just didn't know it...
The Saturday after Thanksgiving Mr F, Kid, and I piled into the car and headed to the strip mall. I needed to do some grocery shopping and Mr F and Kid were going to head into the Blockbuster for a movie.
I went to the grocery store. I entered the front of the store (by the registers) and then turned right and proceeded to snake my way all the way around the store ending in dairy (to the left of the registers). I had just come to the front end of the aisle when I heard a woman yelling at her son... kind of hysterically.. and I remember thinking some bad thoughts about her. I couldn't see her and it sounded like she was in one of the first checkout lanes by the doors.
Less than a second later I have a funny feeling and everyone stops moving and gets down. A cashier in the lane right in front of me comes running (while squatting) and says "get down he's got a gun" (just so you know even writing that makes me cry). From where I am at the end of the store in front of the last two registers I cannot see the gunman and realize that it was his cashier who was yelling and that they are in the first few checkout lanes. Our store is not big... but I can't see past the checkout lane displays. So in this moment, in the very instant, that I realize what is happening I scan the store. To my right is a doorway that leads to the recycling... but I don't want to get trapped... and I don't know where it goes or if there is one gunman or more than that.. or if they would see me(likely). But I do know one thing I am not staying here and getting shot. I had been watching The Nine, which was about hostages, which although escalated my fears... did motivate me to get the hell out. I was not about to wait and see what was going to go down. And really they say you have a fight or flight response to danger and writing this out makes it seem like it took much longer than it took for me to KNOW that I was making a run for it somehow.
So as the cashier runs past me... I turn leaving my purse and cart and run back down the dairy aisle toward the back of the store. I am safe while in the diary aisle. At the end of the aisle I will have to make a right and go in front of a few aisles, making it possible to get shot, but then I can go into the back of the store where the loading docks are. I decide it is worth it and run. I see a mom & her son and wave them to come. We get to the back. Now I have a sudden panic that maybe they are escaping through the back and an accomplice might be out at the loading docks. Luckily there are 3 workers in the back, one of them a manager. It turns out those doors are locked and without him we couldn't have gotten out. I am more than a little wound up and trying to quietly demand that he let us out. He is obviously bewilderd but reluctantly opens it. Now we run. RUN. I run as fast as I can while sobbing all down the back of the complex. Being pregnant, and not too quick, everyone takes off and I am pretty quickly alone doing this. Before everyone got to the end of the complex there was a Domino's delivery guy waiting outside the Domino's back door. A woman told him what was going on but then said NOT to call 911 yet. If you watched The Nine, you would have understood her point, and I was thinking "good one"... you don't want to panic him and have him actually start shooting.
I turn the corner. Domino's is at the close end and Blockbuster is at the far end. I just wanted to get to Blockbuster and see Kid and Mr F. I was tired and crying and NOBODY stopped to ask me if I was okay (wtf? I could have been in labor!). But I was still panicked and had a worst case scenario that the gunman/men might go crazy and shoot up another store (it happens!). I finally get to Blockbuster (I should note that at this point it has been about 2 minutes since I started running out the store).
As soon as I approach the window I am struck with the realization that they might not be in Blockbuster anymore. Now very panicked and anxious I scan the store. THEY ARE NOT IN THE STORE!!!! I had the car keys in my purse so they couldn't have gone to the car. THEY WENT IN THE GROCERY STORE to look for me. I don't know what to do. I know there is a gunman in the store with my family.. with my baby. I had never in my life even contemplated a horror like this. I head towards the store, why I don't know, because I just can't wait for them not knowing. As I turn to approach the store a man in black stands in the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, he is holding a duffel bag, he shakes his head "no" at me. I don't know if he is warning me or if he is an accomplice or what. I turn around and fall on the ground in convulsive sobs. I am helpless and terrified and I can't get to me child.
A moment later a car pulls over in front of the Blockbuster. An older man gets out and helps me up. He says "Are you looking for your daughter and your husband?" How does he know that?! I am suspicious of everyone, I am paranoid. "yes" I sob. He says "I know where they are" and takes my hand and starts trying to lead me toward the grocery store. I'm freaking out and feeling like an animal being dragged toward a slaughter house. "no there is a gunman in there!" I shout. "No there is not." he calmly replies. Then my mind is spinning.. there's not? was it a fake gun... who is this man? is he in cahoots?
Just then to our left we see two policemen slowly walking through the parking lot toward the store with their guns raised. SHIT. This shit is about to go down and my family is in there. There is a gunman. This is true. This is happening.
As they pass the cars I see Kid and Mr F crouched and hiding in the parking lot. I am both relieved and terrified. They are safe... but they are not safe there. The cops see them and let them run to me. We were then locked into a coffee shop to wait it out. I felt like I would go into labor or have a heart attack or both. I have never been under so much stress and anguish in my life... including during Kid's seizures. Knowing that something terrible is happening, or fearing that it will, and not being able to stop it is the worst feeling in the world.
No one was injured that day. The gunman fled on foot. He was never found.
I had 3 episodes of early labor in the weeks that followed. My blood pressure rose 30 points.
I tried to get over my fear and go back to that store. I began crying uncontrollably in the parking lot. It has been over a year and I have never been back to that complex. Ever.
I completely forgot to give you Mr F's take... maybe he'll be kind enough to put it in the comments.
But yes he and Kid did enter the grocery store during the holdup. They were right in front of the gunman and Mr F did some fast thinking of his own and fled with Kid.