When I was fifteen, I never thought I’d be a victim of a violent crime. Bad people were in the movies, not the real world. Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, this illusion of safety shattered forever.
That night, I was hanging out with my older sister and my cousin in their new apartment. They were college students who’d just moved out on their own, excited to get their first taste of independence. We ate, talked, watched TV, said goodnight and went to bed.
I awoke in the middle of the night. Someone was kicking me. I opened my eyes and saw my cousin being dragged away by a dark figure with a shiny object in his hand. Half asleep, it took me a minute to realize what was going on.
The dark figure held a knife to my cousin’s throat. She was whimpering. I will never forget the sound; it was the sound of utter distress. I sat up and looked more closely at the figure, gradually taking in the horror of what I was seeing.
He saw me sitting up with a confused look on my face. “You’re dreaming,” he said. “Go back to sleep.” I laid down and closed my eyes, pretending to sleep.
I don’t know how long it took him to drag my cousin out of our bedroom, into the room where he’d tied-up my sister. All I could do was listen to the whimpering, begging and pleading coming out of the mouths of women that I loved.
I can’t describe the feeling of pure fear that coursed through my body. It was paralyzing and overpowering. Time stood still. All my senses were heightened, to the point where my head felt like it was exploding. A whisper became a scream with an endless echo.
I remember the “conversations” in the adjacent bedroom as if it were yesterday. I remember my sister pleading for our lives. “Please leave my little sister alone. Please don’t kill us. Please just let us go.”
I couldn’t move. All I could do was wait for him to come and get me too. Then the whimpering and crying got louder, as if something worse was about to happen in the next room. “He’s killing them,” I thought to myself. “And I’m next.”
A voice inside said “Get up and RUN! Right NOW!”
I ran. My body was shaking. I had with so much adrenaline in my system I didn’t feel it when I fell over a balcony. All I could think: he’s right behind me! I ran as fast and as hard as I could. I frantically knocked on neighbors doors, trying to get help. Door after door. Finally, someone answered.
Once I heard the sirens, I stumbled my way back towards the apartment. I didn’t know if my sister and cousin were dead or alive. Thankfully, they were alive. The attacker left when I ran out of the apartment. But not before he raped my sister.
The man who attacked my family is serving two life sentences. The police said we’d been “lucky.” The last woman he’d raped he left for dead. He confessed that he’d intended to take his crime spree “to the next level” on the night of the assault.
Fear consumed me for years after the attack. I couldn’t feel safe. I had constant nightmares. I awoke several times a night, checking the windows and doors. I couldn’t be alone in the house. I developed PTSD. Nothing I could do, no therapy or counseling, could remove the dark cloud hanging over my life. I was at the end of my rope.
Guns saved my life.
My recovery began when I started hunting. Being in nature, away from everything and everyone, I found a peace I couldn’t find anywhere else. Having the power of life or death over one of God’s creatures, exercising that power ethically and responsibly, empowered me. It put me back in touch with something I’d forgotten: the preciousness of life. My life.
Not long after my first hunt I bought my first defensive firearm. For the first time in years I slept peacefully. Later, I got my Texas LTC and started carrying a handgun. I could leave my home without fear. I could hold my head up.
My love of firearms stems from my need to feel safe. To be safe. I know a gun isn’t a magic talisman. But carrying a gun is a way — an effective way — to protect my life, the lives of my loved ones and other innocent people. A life I wouldn’t have if not for guns.