Everyone–especially parents–talk about how they would react in the presence of danger; how they’ll make a run for it; how they’ll step in front of a bullet to save another person; how they’ll be so brave etc. etc. But when you’re actually in the presence of danger everything processes differently. I know this because just a few moments ago I had a scare. If things had turned out differently it would have either resulted in years of therapy or a funeral.
My girls and I are currently visiting our hometown New York City, staying at my grandparent’s house while we are here. I took my girls to the park for a little bit for some fresh air then decided to go to Burger King to grab a bite before heading back to my grandparent’s house to watch Finding Dory (I got an E-mail from Netflix letting me know they released the movie today!) My oldest and I were both so excited because we’ve been wanting to see that movie for the longest! So we practically skipped over to Burger King. On the way there I told my four year old, Julyza that we should take the food to go so we can watch the movie and eat at the same time, she said okay but I could tell she wasn’t all the way down with that–and I was right. Once we got to the corner of Burger King she said, “Mommy, I think we should sit down and eat in Burger King instead of taking the food to go.” I was kinda hungry so I thought, sure, why not?
To my surprise the line was pretty long and there was only one lane open but the line was moving smoothly. We ordered, got our food and after debating about whether or not we should sit by the front door, we ultimately decided to sit smack dab in the middle of the establishment. Luckily for us because the seat we chose was right under the overhead speaker so we was able to jam while eating our meal.
Luckily for us because had we chosen to sit by the door I have no idea how tonight would have turned out. And I’m glad I don’t have to find out.
We finished our meal and we weren’t happy with the fries but life goes on, right? Julyza stood up and threw our trash away in the garbage can that was right behind me. So as we’re putting our coats on, we’re jamming to a song that I recognized but couldn’t quite remember the name of. I pulled out my phone getting ready to Shazzam the song and as I’m flipping through my phone looking for the Shazzam app I asked Julyza what the name of the song was because I noticed she was singing along with it. She opened her mouth to speak but the voice I heard next wasn’t hers.
She spun around at the same time that I looked over her head and needless to say we were both scared by what was happening right before our eyes.
Before I go on, I’ll just have you know that Julyza is very intelligent and she is, to a certain degree, aware of the fact that policemen are not doing their jobs properly these days. There have been several times in the past where we would see a cop pull someone over or approach someone and she would ask me “are they going to get shot?” As a mother that tears me up inside. She is only four years old and instead of feeling safe in the presence of a police officer she feels fear. Fear that someone is going to get shot. A fear that is quite understandable considering on how things have been going lately where the police are concerned. So you could understand the fear that we both felt now that we were in a closed space, in close proximity to yet another Black unarmed man potentially being fatally shot.
I couldn’t give into my fear, I had to be in Mommy mode, I had to protect my children.
One minute everything was peaceful and happy; we’re jamming, and then the next minute we see guns drawn and hear yelling. At first when I saw the guns, nothing registered other than the fact that this whole thing was going on right by the entry/exit way and I panicked. How was I going to get my children out to safety? Then I got angry because before I realized they were cops I thought they were regular people either robbing Burger King or on a mission to go on a killing spree.
See, the thing about my hearing, I can hear sounds perfectly fine but it sometimes takes me a while to register what’s being said/ what sound I’m hearing. So at first I heard yelling that pretty much registered as just that–yelling. But as the seconds ticked by, I quickly realized the two men with hoodies and Yankee jackets (the typical NYC undercover cop outfit) were plainclothes police officers arresting someone in Burger King. Though, from where I was standing I couldn’t directly see who the perpetrator was or where he was, through the reflection in the glass I could see a tall man, in his 40’s or early 50’s with his hands up. If I wasn’t mistaken he sucked his teeth and shook his head and if my lip reading skills were as on point as I feel they are he said “aw, come on man” before getting on the floor. At the moment I was too scared thinking the worse that It didn’t hit me until later that that guy was far too calm given the circumstances.
The other patrons, though they rushed in our direction to get away from the commotion, were also calm as hell. One lady even sat down and got comfortable and took her jacket off. Her body language spelled out “oh god, not this s*** again” as if this was the most normal thing in the world! Another lady giggled at the first lady and everyone else had their phones out no doubt recording waiting for the worst to happen. But out of all of these people Julyza and I are the only ones visibly shaken! I mean, if the other kids who were there were scared, they deserved an Oscar because they were calm as hell, whereas Julyza covered her ears as if expecting one of those guns to go off…like she knew the sound of a live gun was loud as f***. She was prepared.
But there I was,me… mommy, frozen still trying to figure out how I was going to get my kids out of there. I didn’t want to make any sudden moves for obvious reasons so I couldn’t take my 5 month old out of the stroller and throw the stroller against the window in attempt to gain access to the great outdoors. Mind you, while all of this is going on I was texting my Husband and best friend letting them know with shaky hands what was going on. My husband’s Cap-locks told me he was upset and since there are currently several states between us at the moment I’m sure he felt understandably helpless. My best friend on the other hand evolved from disbelief to survival mode and told me to get the girls into the bathroom.
Ah, Yes! The bathroom! Sounded like a good idea but then it didn’t for some reason because then that would be yet another closed space–a confined one at that.
Just then I noticed that not one, not two, not three but four police cars were pulling up (All of these cops for one person…gee) and patrons started disappearing. Since everyone was so calm, I doubted they escaped to the bathroom, so where the hell did everybody go?
I looked back and saw that there was indeed a back door! In my moment of shock and fear I’d completely forgotten that this Burger King had a back door!
I didn’t waste another second, I got my kids the hell out of there, speed-walked half a block away before stopping to ask if Julyza was okay. She was quite shaken and I knew she had some questions but from the looks of it she couldn’t quite form the words to ask. So I told her that I was sorry she had to see that. Then another idea popped into my head, I could use this moment as a teaching moment.
I have always told Julyza that she should listen to me when I tell her to and not to do certain things or else she’ll grow up and be forced to listen to the police. I know she understood how serious I was but now that she witnessed how serious it is when you don’t listen/ follow the rules I thought this would be the perfect time repeat what I always tell her.
“Julyza, the only reason those cops would show up and point their guns at that man is because he broke the rules; he didn’t follow the law, he did something he was not supposed to do therefore he needed to be punished. They are going to take him to Jail and while I don’t know what it was that he did he most likely didn’t listen to the rules and thought he could do whatever he wanted to do.” She looked up at me with sad eyes and nodded to let me know that she understood so I went on, “So when I tell you to and not to do something it’s for your own good. Because if you don’t learn to listen to me now you will grow up and be forced to listen to the police.” She nodded again, this time she looked ready to burst out crying. I reassured her that everything was going to be okay and we walked to my grandmother’s house in silence.
Once my nerves calmed, I realized how badly I had to pee! With a clear head I replayed everything that happened and it dawned on me that from the beginning of the commotion I was so frightened that I had indeed almost peed on myself but I was so concerned about getting my children to safety I naturally set my bladder’s needs aside and tried to remain focused on the situation at hand.
two blocks later, my mind raced again. Was I supposed to hang back and give a witness account of what had happened? I mentally kicked myself. Two years of Studying Criminal Justice, graduating with a Cum Laude degree and everything I’d learned about how the system worked blanked. I breathed sigh of relief when I finally remembered that I didn’t have to do anything but leave because there were no fatalities to witness–at least not while I was there. Thank God, because I was no mood to witness death again (another story for another time)
At the end, I think Julyza and I came away from that situation with a few lessons learned. For her, she learned the importance of listening. For me, I learned to always check for all possible entry-ways and exits (don’t sit near them, though), What we say we would do is not always what we will do when we are in the moment and I’m what I consider a scared-pee’er (you know, those type of people who wet their pants when they are afraid–luckily I didn’t pee, and even if I did, thank you Kotex U)
I want to say that if we ever find ourselves in a situation like that again, or worst, I would be prepared but now I know that no one could ever be prepared for the worst.