There I was, eight months pregnant, baby kicking in my belly, almost time for my husband and I to close shop on that Sunday afternoon and head home where I could rest my weary swollen legs which I had been standing on the whole day.
That Sunday was tinged with a bit of sadness; the day before was the anniversary of my brother-in-laws death (May his soul rest in peace). He was a victim of an armed robbery but he did not survive.
Getting ready to cash up the tills, my husband at the door to our shop, a smartly dressed gentleman walked in with a lot of cents, dropped them on the counter and asked for bubble gum. I looked down and started counting the cents so that I could work out how many bubble gums to give him when I notice him reach under his shirt, and before I knew it, I had a gun pointed straight at me. At the same moment from the corner of my eye, I see my husband tense up, his hand already in a fist which he quickly released as he too had a gun pointed at his head, being quickly ushered into the shop out of sight of any passerby.
I wondered where my one worker was, still not believing what was happening, and saw a third man already moving her to the back room of the store. I remember thinking, “this cannot be happening”.
I was kept in the front of the store while my husband and worker were confined to the back room. My thoughts were I could not lose my husband; life could not be so cruel. Amazingly through this ordeal I felt a calm come over me, my voice did not become shrill, I did not cry tears asking for mercy or begging them not to hurt me, my unborn baby, us. I was calm.
I was told to open the till which I did, then moved out of the way while the one gentleman moved past me to grab all the notes. As it was a Sunday and a slow one at that, not much notes were in the till that day. With the gun half pointed at me he asked for the safe. We did not have one, my thoughts: “what if he does not believe me when I tell him we don’t have a safe?” My response, “we do not have a safe”, he asked the question again, and again I answered “we do not have a safe”. He must have seen in my face that I was not lying as he did not ask again and no threat forthcoming. Due to my pregnancy my fingers had swollen and I was suffering from a mild allergic reaction to my wedding band and engagement ring. I chose to wear these on my necklace as I could not wear them on my fingers. The robber approached and yanked at my necklace, tearing it from my neck.
I was then ordered to move to the back of the shop, towards the back room. I started moving in that direction and realized that he was not accompanying me. My fear was that should I reach the back room unaccompanied, would I startle the man who was watching over my husband, would my appearance cause him to let off a shot, and if yes, would it be directed at me, or worst, would it be directed at my husband.
Approaching as slowly and non-threateningly as I could, I opened my mouth and drew his attention. I told him that I was told to go to the back room and he ushered me in with his gun. Regardless of the fact that I was pregnant, I was forced to lie on my belly but he must have taken note of my state as I was the only one that was not tied up.
One of them then joined the other in the back room, questioning my husband as to where his car keys were. My husband told them his pocket, and they took it out and both of them then exited the room. Silence ensued, I was too scared to breathe worried that if I did I would not hear them return.
After what felt like an eternity but was probably 10 minutes, my husband told me to untie him. At first I was too scared to do this, what if they were still there? Again he told me to untie him, so I got to my knees and untied his arms from behind his back and his legs at the ankles. I then did the same for my worker. They were braver than I as they had the courage to peek around the corner to see if they were still in the shop. I could not, I was at the stage where tears were flooding my eyes, my heartbeat racing, and my fear was finally sinking in.
Thankfully they were gone, they got what they wanted, money and the car, and they left. No-one was hurt, that was the most important part. My husband told me to phone the police which I managed to do, but I was unable to speak to them so gave the phone to my worker who then reported the armed robbery. Somehow they missed my purse; they either did not see it or were not bothered to take it. I took out my mobile phone and phoned my family, letting them now what had just happened.
Life carries on, and the next day we were back at work very conscious of all that entered the shop, and as time went by, we started to relax again until a smartly dressed man entered the shop to buy something. I did not realize the full impact of the robbery until then. Immediately my breathing became difficult, my nerves were on edge, my palms became sweaty, my senses were telling me to serve him quick and get him out, and all because of how he was dressed. That was the first of a serious of anxiety attacks which I experienced and to this day as much as my mind can handle stressful situations, my body cannot.
I can look back at this situation and say, “oh poor me, life is hard, look at what I have been through”, but that is not how I choose to live. After a severe panic attack which landed me in hospital, I made the decision that shop life was not for me. I managed through time and patience find an office job which is much more secure and today find myself in a much better place than when I was before. I look back at my experience as a victim of an armed robbery and tell others it was possibly the best thing that happened to me. If it weren’t for that moment I would still be behind a shop counter and not where I am today.
I chose to not let me being a victim rule my life. Granted my body still does not cope with stress as it should but I am in a much better place.