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Defining Moments

From darkness comes light.

As I'm sitting here drinking Carucci Rose out of a "Mommy's Sippy Cup" stemless wine glass on a Saturday night, I'm contemplating what my very first blog post should be - such a big decision! One thought keeps dominating all others - the day every fiber of my being changed for the worse, and for the better.

It was a Friday night in beautiful Goleta, Santa Barbara, CA. I was a young 22-year-old who studied and drank too much. I wasn't supposed to be there, not even scheduled to work, but a colleague asked me to cover his shift and as a broke UCSB college student, I happily obliged. I went to work, only a few minutes from my shared rented house on the beach, naively having no idea my world was about to be changed forever.

I was a teller at Bank of America and like all things I take on, I worked hard at it. Being there for only a short time, I was promoted to a trainer. I showed up hungover to train a new hire, a young girl who to this day, I wish I was in contact with, but I unfortunately don't even remember her name.

I was showing her the reins at the very left teller station, closest to the door. It was close to closing time and I was very much looking forward to going home and sleeping off the repercussions of my bad decisions I made the night before. Life however, had a different plan for me.

Just like a scene out of a movie, four masked men ran in all hopped up on adrenaline and bad intentions. Three of them could have definitely qualified for the Olympics as they jumped over the counter like there were trampolines on the other side (this was before the installation of bullet-proof glass partitions). A leg, hidden in black sweatpants, nearly brushed my face. It only took a few seconds for me to realize what was happening. Oh God, we were being robbed.

The rest is spotty - and then there's a complete blackout. Amazing what the brain does to protect you. Our male manager hid under his desk across from where we were stationed. Our other male colleague ran and hid in the office closest to his teller station - leaving me and the poor unnamed girl in the wide open and vulnerable to the coming trauma.

This is what I can recall. Guns pointed at my face. Demands being made. The robbers were (obviously) intent on getting the vault, but without my manager's key, that wasn't going to happen. They did, however, find our rolling vault (bills and change to replenish our teller drawers). They demanded I open it. That meant, I had to insert my key along with a key on a keyring with dozens of other keys. Not sure what angel was with me that day, but I miraculously picked the correct key, inserted it in the lock and opened the change section. To this day, I still don't know how that happened! They saw the rolls of pennies and quarters and slammed the drawers shut - quickly discarding the rest of the rolling vault. Joke's on them! If they would have gotten the drawer above it opened, they would have left with a lot more cash.

Once I became useless to them, I was ordered to lay on the ground. This is where it gets fuzzy. I remember looking up and seeing them take the cash out of my drawer. And I remember smiling when they took my bait money. Bait money is $50 bills on each side, but a transmitter in the middle. Once you take bait money past the sensors in the house plants on either side of the entrance, a dye-pack explodes rendering the rest of the stolen cash useless. Which is what eventually happened.

Back to laying on the dirty carpeted floor of the bank. I was terrified. Too scared to cry, but apparently not too scared to talk to them. I was told later that I kept saying "take it, take it all". But I don't remember that. What I do recall is accepting my death. What a trip, right? Right then and there, I accepted I was going to die and felt a wave of peace wash over me. Like everything was going to be ok. Again, that guardian angel was helping me out. That's when everything goes black.

The next thing I remember is the police and FBI showing up and asking me questions. I was disoriented and grateful to be alive. With a sigh of relief, I thought "it's over". Little did I know then that it was far from over. That moment would affect for the rest of my life. Especially 16 years later when my baby was born - but that's a story for another time. (To this day I still can't watch Point Break.)

I didn't get therapy and didn't deal with it. My bubble was burst. Life was no longer safe. And I carried that with me for years and years - only facing it head on last year in therapy (which was also life-changing). As for those four criminals, they sped away down the 101 and discarded the dye-pack-ruined cash on the freeway (ha!). Two of them were caught and were known LA gang members. Not sure if they're still in jail and where the other two are. Are they still alive? Do they have families? Are they remorseful or do they not care about the ripple effects their actions caused two young college students.

I don't know and likely never will. All I know is that this traumatic experience made me more fearful, but also more grateful. I was a moody young adult who didn't appreciate all I had. Believe me, that all changed in an instant. I was, and will forever be, grateful for every day I get to spend on this earth. I don't want to thank those gun-toting thieves, but also know I wouldn't be who I am without that harrowing experience.

Thanks for reading my first (hopefully of many) blog posts!


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