These next couple-hundred words are less about Pilates, and more about a life experience which I choose not to let define me and the way I respond to daily events. A little over a year ago we were involved in a robbery at gun (and knife) point.
Yup, it happens. And we just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Isaac, his Dad, his Dads wife, and myself were the last four in an Indian Restaurant at The Central Coast of NSW when all of a sudden this man wearing a balaclava, who was waving a handgun around, ran up the stairs yelling at us. I looked across the table, stunned – is this a joke? His wonky, clearly hand-cut balaclava was amateur at best. But this guy was holding a gun, pointing it in our faces, telling us to put our hands on the table and not to move. So, we put our hands on the table and didn’t move. As the robber moved through the restaurant closer to where we were sitting, the kitchen where the staff were, and the cash register, he was running into tables and chairs, and was clearly not sound of mind. I would hazard to say he was on some kind of drug, which one I couldn’t be certain. I was facing away from the kitchen, toward the back of the restaurant where the entrance to the stairs were. Right in front of me I had Isaac, whose face kept me present for the following (and longest) 15 minutes.
In his confused state of mind, the robber then told us to put our hands in the air, and threatened to shoot us if we made a move. The gun was at the back of my head. Isaac was looking directly at this thug, pointing a gun to the back of his fiancés head. It turns out this was one of the hardest parts for Isaac, he later told me that he felt like he couldn’t do a thing to protect me in that moment. The robber then told us to put our hands on the table again; in hindsight it’s kind of funny, like we were playing a game of ‘Simon says’ but it was a super-not-fun version. The balaclava wearing lunatic then proceeded to pull a giant weaponry knife from the front of his pants (which may be one reason why he was walking so weirdly when he first entered…) and walked into the kitchen where he had seen a staff member poke her head out of the round window in the door.
Unbeknownst to us, there was a back exit, so all of the restaurant staff had quickly escaped the kitchen and were safe. The guy was only in there for a moment, then came back out likely realising he had left us alone with our phones, threatening to shoot us if we called the cops. He then disappeared into the kitchen, I’m guessing he was looking around and trying to figure out what he was going to do next. He had already walked past the cash register, which as we later found out wasn’t even locked, and hadn’t touched any of our wallets, purses or phones when he threatened us. During the few moments that followed his going into the kitchen, Isaac’s Dad, who is an ex-Police Officer, insisted that his wife, Isaac and myself should leave immediately. Isaac refused to leave his Dad behind. And after an extremely long moment of convincing, his wife and I made a run for it.
The few metres to the stairs were the longest I’ve ever run, and as I went down the stairs I looked back up to Isaac & his Dad and all I could think was ‘what if he shoots them because we left’. I scrambled for my phone, conveniently because he told us to put our hands on the table it was easy for me to grab my purse which was right in front of me. Just as I was dialling ‘000’ and putting the phone to my ear, we came to a skidding stop in the car park as the robber (or a partner who was dressed the same as him? We don’t know) told us to get back inside. Again, the gun was to the back of my head. He walked behind us as we went back to the stairs, and then he left as we entered the building. My tongue was numb. I think this was the peak of the adrenaline rushing through me. Just as we got to the middle platform of the stairs, Isaac & his Dad were rushing down. We whispered to them that there was another one outside (not knowing at the time that it could have been the same guy using the kitchen exit that the staff used). Isaac’s Dad lead the way, we sprinted out toward the main road (away from the car park where we first got threatened back inside), finally able to call the cops. Isaac & his Dad stayed hidden where they could watch the entrance of the restaurant while they were on the phone with the Police. Isaacs Dad directed his wife and I to run down the road, well out of harms way, to the nearest residential home. This is where we found the restaurant staff.
That was the official end of the ordeal, after that, the Police arrived (though it took them an alarmingly long time to get there) and we did our interviews. They never did find the robber, and they never did update us on anything further. Quite disappointing, truthfully. And you know what – I bet I know what you’re wondering – did the guy even take anything? Nope. No he did not. He put us through all of that, for quite literally nothing.
To be honest, I still can’t believe that this is something that the four of us went through together. That’s one way to bond!
Immediately after, Isaac & I were afforded a few days off work to come to terms with everything. Isaac’s work were extremely supportive of him, and provided plenty of mental health options to ensure he was dealing with everything healthily. It was really great to witness that, I had been a little worried they’d just tell him to have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up, or something equally as lame. My work actually responded extremely poorly and made me feel horrible for needing time away from the office.
In the weeks that followed, I was relatively fine. Isaac attended his mental health appointments, and was given the all clear. We spoke about it every so often.
In the months that followed, it turned out that I wasn’t as fine as I thought. I ended up having a panic attack on my drive to work one day, after bottling everything up for so long. I booked myself in to see a Psychologist. I only needed a few sessions in the end, but just to talk it all out and be told that how I was feeling in the aftermath was normal, was what I needed.
A few months ago when we went back to The Central Coast, we finally got to revisit the restaurant. The staff know Isaacs Dad & his wife well, they go there often still. I did feel uncomfortable being there, but we went, we ate, and we enjoyed ourselves with our family & friends.
From this experience I’m sure there are plenty of lessons to be learnt. Writing this has made me realise I still haven’t fully forgiven the ‘robber’, my previous employers who couldn’t have handled the situation worse, or the the local news team who interviewed a guy who wasn’t even there and allowed him to lie on a national broadcast… What I can confirm is that life goes on. Having this experience hasn’t made me less of a person, but it has given me another point of view. Though, I am still wondering about the ‘why’ of all of it… why did he do it, and why did it happen to us?
You know how when you’re watching a scary movie and you say, ‘I could never do that’. I’m telling you now, you’ll be surprised what you can do when push comes to shove.
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