Submitted Date 12/03/2019

Anyone who works in retail as I have over the years knows that the possibility of enduring an armed robbery exists. The fear associated with the thought of such a horrific event is always there, lingering in the back of your retail-oriented mind. In any retail employment position part of your training covers how to act during such an occurrence. However, copious amounts of training cannot fully prepare you for the reality of it. Unfortunately for me as well as my co-workers, we found this out. Even though it happened years ago at the store where I worked, the memory of it has never left me. I was working the closing shift. When the clock struck nine, it was time to count the till that held the lotto money which would then be placed into the safe. My manager at the time was a woman who would always struggle opening the safe. For whatever reason, she never seemed to be able to open it on her first attempt.

As she and I were in the process of counting the money on the counter, four men entered the store with guns. Three of the four men were wearing masks. The man that wasn't wearing one approached the counter where we had all the money out. All I saw was the gun he had which was pointed at both of us. To this day I don't think I could describe the man's face even though it was not covered. It all happened so quickly but at the same time, it was as if it were all happening in slow motion. The manager and I immediately crouched down behind the counter. I think at this point our flight response had kicked in. Trust me, that instinct is palpable when you have a gun pointed at you. I could hear him scraping all the money off the counter. Then, I heard his voice say in a harsh, threatening tone, "open the safe". I looked up and he was looking at me. The last thing I wanted to do was look at this bastard in the eyes. Again, all I saw was the gun. In this particular store, the safe was a huge monster of one. It stood right next to the front doors. Only managers were given the combination.

Knowing this fact all of a sudden filled me with an overwhelming sense of doom. What would I say to him next? If I tell him that I don't know the combination and can't open it, he might shoot me in a rage. Or, I could lie to him and act as if I could open it. However, it wouldn't take long for him to figure out that I was lying and shoot me for lying. So, I ended up saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm not a manager and only managers have the combination to the safe". He responded with, "Okay, where is your manager?". Again, I could have lied, but I was too afraid of that, so I thought honesty was the best policy in order not to get shot and/or killed. I confessed that my manager was the woman crouched right next to me. He looked at her and shifted his gun from my head over to hers. He ordered her to slowly stand up, keeping her hands where he could see them. She did as he demanded and moved toward the safe with him pointing the gun at her from behind. From my vantage point, I could only see her, the safe and a small part of the barrel of the gun pointed at her back. It was at this moment when I began to pray.

I suddenly remembered how much she had struggled in the past opening it on a good day. And this was NOT a good day. I asked God to guide her hands to be successful this time on her first try. I knew she had to be as scared for her life as I was. But God blessed her. I never saw her open that safe faster than she did this time. Immediately after opening it he ordered her down on the floor. I could hear the sounds coming from the customers throughout the store now. Children were crying, I could hear their parents attempting to soothe them while at the same time hearing the fear catching in their voices. It had become a nightmare. The masked men kept shouting at them to "STAY DOWN" and "DON'T MOVE". And then, just like that, they were gone. Once they exited the store no one moved for a few minutes. An employee who was huddled in the warehouse area at the back of the store had been able to get to a phone and he called the police. Once it was determined that they were gone for good, some of the customers fled. Others stuck around still in shock. The police finally showed up after what seemed like an eternity.

I completely lost it. I sat down on a bench nearby the front doors and began sobbing. A woman who had been a long-time customer came over and sat beside me. She put her arms around me and spoke softly saying everything was alright now and that it was all over with. But it was so far from over. The police held all of the employees for a long time to obtain our reports for them about the crime. Having to relive the whole experience with the police was so difficult for all of us. However, in the aftermath of the robbery, counseling sessions were provided by the company to all of us who had been directly affected. This was helpful in so many ways to overcome the initial feelings of fear and shock. But as helpful as it was, I still had a rough couple of weeks going into work after taking a week off. At first, I didn't even want to go back to work at all. But after talking to my husband about my feelings, he gave me really good advice. He said that if I allowed the incident to keep me from going back to work that I would never go back and then the bad guys would win. He made me see that you can't live your life in fear. However, fear was always nipping at my heels. Before this incident, I had not only been sexually assaulted but raped as well. At no time during the robbery experience did I believe anything like that would have happened to me but fear is fear, no matter what causes it to manifest itself.

I know so many other people out there have had to endure armed robbery or much, much worse. I only had the FEAR of being shot and/or killed. That was enough. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror of actually being shot or shot at. Or hearing that someone you love has been shot at or killed by a gun. We hear about it all the time on the news. Another school shooting. Another armed robbery in a store where people are shot and/or killed. I know how blessed my co-workers, customers and myself were that horrible night when none of us had been injured or killed. I am in no way an advocate of taking away all guns, that is not even logically possible. Only stricter laws to obtain them in light of today's society and how easily accessable they seem to be, especially to children. As long as I live, I will never forget that horrible night...






Julie 🌺


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