« clothes for (fake) babies | Main | arrows and (more) hearts »

monday evening

after eight years in new york it finally happened. we got mugged. it was different than i imagined. i never imagined it happening in the daylight. i never imagined a mugger in his 40s. and i never imagined it happening while my kids played games around our feet.

i stared at his painted-on beard, at the upper lip filling the gaps where his teeth should have been, at his long brown coat, at the half smoked cigarette in his left hand as his right held the partially concealed revolver. he needed money. he had kids. he loved kids. our kids were beautiful. he didn't want to hurt them. he didn't want to shoot us. but he had $900 rent due. he needed $900. he wouldn't go to a shelter. he wouldn't put his kids on the street. he needed $900. please. he didn't want to kill our kids. he loves kids. 

i searched my pockets. i had $0.75, maybe $0.80. i had a $20 watch. i took it off and handed it over. he didn't want change. he needed $900. what were we going to do for him? he had no choice. i fished some more. another quarter. chip shifted charlie and pulled out his wallet. i stared at that beard. was it shoe polish? was it a disguise or just to look good? was that gun real? it looked too small to be real. i was calm. i calmly told him to chill out. but i was also irritated, really irritated. chip handed over the wallet, empty of cash, full of credit cards and id's. i wanted the id. he would mail it to us. i wanted to get it now, i didn't think he didn't need my husband's license. he'd put it in the mail. i persisted. he raised his voice. don't push it, lady. i didn't. my hands went up. he told us to go to our apartment. "go inside mama." he didn't want to hurt no one. he just wanted to go. we just wanted it to be over. it finally was. 

i went inside to cancel credit cards. chip pulled out his phone to call 911. "no! you only call 911 if there's an emergency!" eve cried. they had no idea what had just happened as they giggled and played and we talked with the man in the doorway.

i always imagined being scared, too scared to scream, too scared to think. but i wasn't. strangely, i was not scared at all, only irritated. maybe because chip was at my side or maybe because the man kept shifting his body so the girls wouldn't see the gun. maybe because he seemed affected, almost tortured when he first saw eve's face. maybe i believed him. or maybe i've been in new york long enough. or maybe i just couldn't believe what was happening, that his man was mugging a family of five, my family of five. 

police came, chip went to the precinct, detectives were assigned. i dreamt about him all night and awoke remembering every detail of his face. i left to the suburbs for a happily pre-planned overnight stay. chip got a call at work. a kind stranger found his wallet and called his credit card companies to contact him. everything was there, except the metro card and his driver's license. maybe the mugger put it in the mail after all. or maybe he took it out to spite me. . . who knows. 

how's that for heavy fare? but, after the many many talks with the girls about the choices we make, taking responsibility for those choices and controlling our emotions, we're back to our usual business. . . like making a scarf in commemoration of our group mugging experience. one four inch wide strip cut from black and white striped knit and wrapped around neck. not one stitch of sewing. i'm certain i made this in less time than the mugging lasted. . and don't worry, the girls don't know what this is "in memory of," that's my little secret. . .

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (50)

I feel this will be happening so much more with the economy the way it is. People are desperate. We have always felt so safe living in the country, but in reality I know we are just as vulnerable. I have heard of people having fake wallets just for times like this, containing just enough to hopefully satisfy and hopefully aid in a quick retreat. Glad you are safe.

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergwen grewe

My heart is still racing!!! That is SO scary! When we lived in NY sometimes I'd catch myslef walking down a too-quiet street a bit too late by myself and I'd think--am I going to get mugged? Nah, it's fine-- it's NY, it's safe now. But yet everyone I know who lived in NY for more than 5 years had all been mugged at some point or another... And you in broad daylight!? With the kids right there?! That's so disturbing. So scary. SO scary. I'm so happy you guys are all OK.

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlaurel

I am sorry to read about your unpleasant experience. I am very relieved that you and your family was not hurt. I hope that this one experience will not taint your decision of living area.

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNan

oh jesus!
you´ve got all my feelings!
I live with my family in Europe - in Vienna, a rather small town. To be mugged is not the #1 fear, but with kids EVERYTHING turns into a real thing...hope your dreaming stops soon and this was first=last time you have to proof NY´s life!
kind regards

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdolores

I'm so sorry for the experience you went through. It sounds like you are a survivor! Good job controlling the situation.

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjan

I am so glad you and your little family are okay! Super intense, but its amazing how you stayed relatively calm. Loved the secret commemoration scarf.

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterben anderson

what a terrible terrible thing happened to you. i can only hope i would be half as capable at handling this horrific situation as you were.
i'm so sorry this happened to you. i hope you are able to move past it soon.
thinking of you! xxx

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersusan

oh! that is so terrible. i am so sorry. what a scary thing to have happen to you, with the kids. i really admire that calm-under-fire thing that happened to you guys. and am so glad it turned out ok.

February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlynne

what a surreal nightmare, and very likely a gaping hole now in your ability to think well of and trust your fellow man. I am so angry at this man, even having a gun and daring to mention your children as he is threatening their lives. i can't even think straight.
so so so so glad you came away unharmed. physically.

February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlarissa

Oh wow! I've always wondered what I would do in that situation. I'm so glad you're all ok. I always figured no one would approach me with my kids with me but I also thought that I'd be a lot more brave with my kids there....you know, more protective and defensive. Hooray for you for keeping it together!

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen S

Oh my goodness Katie. I'm so glad you are all okay.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I read your blog all the time and had to comment on this post. WOW! Thank GOD you guys are OK. It is scary and sad at the same time, I don't know what I would have done and in front of the kids too! Thank God you were with your husband and you both were calm. Ugh, seriously, I am so glad you are OK.
I don't know what else to say. Keeping you guys in my thoughts.
Maltese Kat (Katie in San Francisco)

February 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMalteseKat (Katie too!)

I'm sorry that happened to you and your family. I have heard of more people close to me getting mugged this week than I ever have in my life... it's kind of scary. I'm glad you & your loved ones are ok. I guess it always could have been worse... happy weekend.

February 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlinnea

oh my goodness! i stumbled upon your blog and read this and thought...WOW she really did a good job. i would have freaked out i believe. who knows..i've never been mugged...but i know all you were concerned about was your family. and you have a beautiful family at that!
i'm so sorry to hear that happened to you!

March 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKacy

after reading this i am filing away how you reacted...what an amazing mother. such grace!

and the scarf is excellent.

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjoslyn

Wow. How bizarre. And surreal. And scary. I can certainly understand your irritation...the nerve of someone who wants some sympathy doing this with the kids around. I feel the mama bear in me coming out when someone on the street approaches me just asking for money when I'm with my kids. Any other time I'd give them money gladly. But not with my kids right there. For some reason, it makes me feel crazy mad and I'm not very nice about it. How thankful you must be that the kids couldn't fully understand what was going on!

March 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdebra cooper

god, that makes my heart squeeze a bit. i can't imagine going through that and maintaining the level of calm that you did. and then to go home and make scarves... i think i would have had to find a therapist. however, us west coasters don't handle things like muggings very well. irregardless, i'm so glad that you all are okay. it's a wild, wild world out there.

March 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrae ann

ugh happened to me recently, and was so so horrible. well done for being calm, it might take a while to shake it off, but you do, mine was much more traditional, but it's still ground shaking. main thing - everything ok, that's all that matters. love to you all.

March 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercariad

I just recently found your blog (love it, btw) and am blown away by this post- how incredibly scary for you and your husband. We lived in NY (Astoria/Manhattan) 6 1/2 years and while I always felt safe I also always wondered when our time was going to come. I'm so glad that you and your family were not hurt and that you only felt irritated at the time, not terrified.

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchloe

I just recently found your blog (love it, btw) and am blown away by this post- how incredibly scary for you and your husband. We lived in NY (Astoria/Manhattan) 6 1/2 years and while I always felt safe I also always wondered when our time was going to come. I'm so glad that you and your family were not hurt and that you only felt irritated at the time, not terrified.

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchloe

Who mugs a family with three absolutely beautiful children such as yours? Someone real desperate or on drugs maybe. I am glad you all came out unharmed other than the memory and the lost id with metro card. Chill out. That was awesome. Just chill out. BTW, I love the scarf in commemoration! You.are.awesome.

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Sometimes I think people don't realize that the people they hurt are in situations that are just as desperate most of the time-- whether it's rent money or a diagnosis. I'm sorry that you were the victim of a really selfish choice, but it was very relieving to read that no one got hurt and not only that, but a kind stranger returned the wallet. Stuff like that really show us who we really are, and from what I've heard, you're gonna be all right. ;)

December 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteraudrey

Hi, I 've just read this , and i know it happened awhile ago, I hope you and you family have got over such a traumatic experience. God Bless

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAby


November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulia litton

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>