A couple summers ago, my husband and I were victims of a drive-by shooting. We were on vacation in San Diego. My husband had just flown in. I arrived a day earlier, driving down from a business trip in Los Angeles. I stayed at a friend’s place that night. We were headed to our hotel and making a pit stop for some snacks at CVS and 711 on Mission Blvd in Pacific Beach when a car came slowly around the corner and started shooting at us. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, not showing yet, and my husband was holding packages in both hands.
We were lucky that time. It was just a bee bee gun, and it didn’t hit us anywhere that would have caused permanent damage. The bullets only ricocheted my arms, but hit my husband on the arms and the hands. The one on his hand was pretty bad and a mark still remains there a year and a half later.
We didn’t call the cops even though we should have. It was scary. It could have been so much worse. I broke down thinking of what would have happened if I had lost my husband. But it was random and we didn’t want to ruin our vacation, and we were okay.
The next time I heard that familiar “pop,” was this year on New Year’s Eve, and I dialed 911.
My husband and I had a calm New Year’s Eve, hanging out and watching a movie after we put the baby to sleep in our bed. We went to bed shortly after midnight. At 4:30 in the morning we awoke to screaming from the apartment below us. The couple down there fought often, but this was a different voice. My husband went to the window to check out the scene. He told me they were outside, that our neighbor had a knife, that we should call 911. I went to take a quick peek, but didn’t want him to see me looking out the window.
I went back into my room, and held my baby tight, the dog cuddled at my feet as the gun went off. It was the other guy shooting at other spectators in my apartment building. I heard about 4 or 5 shots.
The cops came quickly and blocked off the road. They questioned my neighbors that this man shot at, saying they had looked out the window to see what the commotion was and the man got angry that they were watching so he shot at them. Complete strangers. He didn’t even shoot at the man he was fighting with.
The man was caught a short while later, as was my neighbor’s girlfriend who I believe ran off with the other guy. They are both in jail right now while my downstairs neighbor who most definitely isn’t innocent in all of this is off Scot-free. Apparently, a gun trumps a knife and since the incident occurred on our property, he could argue self-defense.
The cops were at our house for 5 hours collecting evidence, pulling bullets out of the building. Apparently one of the bullets went through to my neighbor’s apartment almost hitting their 15 year old daughter. If my son had been in his room, it could have been him. If my dog had barked instead of comforting me, it could have incited more violence. So many things could have made this even worse.
This is what terror feels like, when you no longer feel safe in your own home, when you have to associate and share space with a man who brought violence to your doorstep.
As I held my baby that night, he just giggled thinking it was playtime with mom. I was able to protect him from feeling fear that night and I am grateful for that. I knew in that moment that I would do anything to protect him without question. If that gun was facing us, I would have jumped in front of him.
I’m hoping the worst is over. I’m hoping our neighbor leaves. I’m hoping there’s no retaliation. I know violence can strike anywhere but I need to do everything I can to put my family in a situation where they at least have a fair shot at being safe. This place used to be that place. It’s a safe neighborhood in a suburban city north of New York. It was safe here until those neighbors moved in. We knew it would escalate. We told the landlord and she didn’t listen. She’s not going to protect us. She just wants her rent check. My husband and I need to take charge to protect our family.
So that will be my biggest goal for the New Year. To find a new home. To keep my family safe now and forever more. There’s too much at stake.