Ten years ago today I was living at 12th and E Streets NE.
Ten years ago today I was employed at the World Bank.
Ten years ago today I took a class on Illustrator at EEI Communications in Alexandria.
Ten years ago today on my way home from the class I stopped off at the video store where my friend Carol worked to say hi.
Ten years ago today a block from my apartment I was mugged.
It had been a fairly nice day for the end of February. The weather was rather warm and sunny. I’d gotten out of the office. The class had been very interesting. If I hadn’t been at the class none of this would have happened. I’d gotten out of the class before I’d normally would have gotten out of work. Even with the time figured in for the commute from Alexandria to the Union Station Metro stop, I was getting home earlier than I would have from work. I’d stopped by to say hi to my friend Carol at the video store and headed home.
I was less than a block from my apartment in fact I was practically across the street from it when everything happened. Two young African-American men were walking down the side walk. To get past them I walked between them which is of course what they wanted me to do. The one guy asked me for my wallet. Well perhaps asked is not exactly the right way to describe the tone of voice used. I guess I didn’t react fast enough. I was after all a little surprised at the request. So I was punched in the face. As an interesting side note when you’re punched in the face there’s an actual sound made when the fist connects with you the area around your eye. I had my backpack with me and the other one grabbed that and swung me around and I ended up on the ground.
I was dazed because I’d hit my head on the grass. As I was laying prone on the ground, my wallet was taken and my other pockets searched. There were also two other guys there. I’m pretty sure at one point a knife was pulled. So even after getting my money, which wasn’t very much, they were going to hurt me. (In fact this turned out to be the m.o. of the ring leader of the group getting money from people and then hurting them.) Thankfully at that point in time a neighbor came out of his house and scared them away.
I was a little dazed and confused. I’d lost my glasses. The main thing I wanted to do was get into my apartment as quickly as possible. Luckily, although my keys had been taken out of my pocket, they had just been thrown on the ground. The neighbor asked if I was ok. I just picked up my keys and headed into my apartment.
I was bleeding from my head and I would later find out I had one hell of a shiner. The first thing that I did was call 911. Now I realize the series of questions I was asked is used to determine the priority of the emergency but at the time they seemed to be sort of silly to me. One was well are the perpetrators still there. I’m thinking well no because I’m talking to you on the phone. The one that really got me was did I think I needed medical attention. I’d described my injuries and thought it was pretty obvious I needed an ambulance.
I waited for someone to arrive. I paced my apartment. I just couldn’t sit still at all. The police were the first to arrive. I’m not even sure how they got into the building. I must have let them in. Then the questions started. How many, what they looked like, where’d they go etc etc. Then in a little while the emergency crew arrive. They gave me a once over. Felt pretty sure I did not have a conclusion but weren’t sure how sever the cut on the back of my head was. They thought I should go to the hospital. The EMT guys were great and the police were too.
Before I got in the ambulance, I asked if we could see if it was possible to locate my glasses. They had been punched off my face when I’d been hit. The police, EMTs and myself looked but couldn’t find them. I made a big deal out of it. I guess in some way I wanted to take back what had happened to me.
Off to the hospital. It took longer than it should have because some guy had parked his car in the street and the ambulance couldn’t get around it. The driver had to get out and tell the guy to move. The driver came back and said the guy was drunk in his car.
At the hospital I was whisked into the emergency room. They went over me. Looking at my eye. Seeing to my head injury. They decided I didn’t need any stitches and that I didn’t have a concussion. In one of those small world moments, I was given an ice pack to put on my eye. There wasn’t any ice in the bag . It was a plastic bag with two sections in it. When twisted the sections would break into one section and the chemicals in each of the sections combined and produced the same effect of an ice bag. As I was looking at the bag I noticed it was made by Abbot Labs in Mundelein, Illinois which just so happened to be the town I grew up in. In fact I’d even worked at Abbot Labs one summer during college. I will say that I would have been more than happy to not have found that out.
The police came in and took pictures of me to document what had happened to me. I’d be interested to see the pictures to see what I looked liked. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. After about an hour or so I was released.
And as much fun as the afternoon was it got even better. I didn’t have anyone that I could call to come and pick me up because no one was going to be home. It was in an era with no cell phones. I still had my ATM card so I thought I’d find a machine get some money and take a cab home. The one ATM I found was out of order. To find this machine I’d wondered around the hospital and was in a very deserted area of the it. I was not going to go back because I wasn’t sure where to go. What I should have done was found someone to help me out.
All I wanted to do was get home. I was not exactly sure where I was. I didn’t have my glasses so I couldn’t see anything far away. I had a huge black eye and a bandaged wrapped around my head. But I still decided I would walk home. I got my barrings. I figured out where I was. In order to do that I had to get right under a street sign and look straight up at the sign to read it. Ouch. Big bump on head. Looking straight up. It hurt.
I was easily a mile or more away from my apartment. It was a really stupid thing to do. But at the time I think it was important to show I wasn’t going to be bowed but what these assholes did to me. It also was something to do; a task that was needed to be completed and took my mind off what had just happened. I knew that I could walk to a Safeway grocery store. I knew in there would be an ATM and I’d be able to get money and then get a cab. But as I got close to the store; I thought about the way I looked and decided I didn’t want to have any more possible with people. So I ended up walking the rest of the way home.
It took several months before the main guy was caught. I won’t go into the long story of the process to bring the guy to justice. The cliff notes version: Two detectives came to my house to talk about what happened. I went to a line-up, I met with the district attorney, I testified before a grand jury, I wrote a victim impact statement, I attended the sentencing and then went out for coffee with all the other victims of this guy. He was sentenced to 19 1/2 to 58 years in prison.
It’s interesting to think how this one event change my life. I had to sleep with the lights on for about a week. I propped a chair up against my apartment door each night. I could barely stand to walk past the place where I’d been attacked. I decided I had to move. In the next three weeks I saw at least one apartment a day. Sometimes it was two or three. I was lucky. I ended up in a very nice apartment in Foggy Bottom. But because of the circumstances of the move, it took me a very long time to appreciate the area. I even mentioned that in the victim impact statement I did. In fact, I didn’t realize I felt that way until I wrote the statement.
There are still some residual effects of the mugging. From time to time I still get nervous around groups of your African-American men. I try not to let it bother me but it still does. And it bothers me that this still bothers me. I’ve always tried to judge people on who they are not what they are.
The mugging forced me to move. Eventually the rent at my new apartment got so high, I decided to look for a house. I wonder, if the mugging had not occurred, if I would be in my house today. I think the answer to that is no. So it is strange how one very very bad event changed my life. And not all of those changes were bad.
And that’s what happened to me ten years ago today.