My husband and I were walking home from the subway at 10 p.m. on a Friday night in April 1991, when we passed a group of teenage boys on a quiet street. We knew almost immediately that something was not right; as we heard quick footsteps behind us, we sped up and then began running. My husband ran into the street and started yelling and waving his arms, hoping to attract someone’s attention. Someone grabbed my long ponytail from behind, and I felt the warm muzzle of a gun press against my temple. A voice shouted out, “I’m gonna kill her!” My husband came running back. He looked terrified, shouting, “What do you want?” We were instructed to take off our jackets and hand over our wallets. We threw everything on the ground.
Then the boy — for he was a boy, just 18 years old — pushed me to the ground and pointed the gun at my husband, standing just a few feet away with his hands in the air. He kept saying, “What do you want? We gave you everything!” I was on the ground and couldn’t see what was happening, but in the confusing few seconds that followed, I heard voices and a gunshot and thought, “This is it. Rick is dead. I’m next. We’re never going to hold hands or dance to Frank Sinatra again.” We’d been married less than a year. Suddenly I heard Rick’s voice and felt him pull me up. We were surrounded by people, and a boy lay on the ground, bleeding. I heard someone say, “Be careful with that gun, it’s cocked.”
It turned out that a group of undercover cops had this group of teenagers under surveillance the whole night, and they were sitting across the street in a car as our scenario unfolded. One of the officers crawled across the street, announced himself to the young man with the gun, and when the gunman didn’t lower his weapon, the officer shot him in the abdomen. The young man survived. We all survived, in our own ways. The cop was awarded police officer of the year in Washington, D.C., for that incident and others.
We thought about moving. D.C. was the murder capital then, and it could be a scary city sometimes. But we also loved our community, and we decided that it made more sense to become involved in helping children in our neighborhood to have better choices. We started working with a nonprofit children’s literacy program, and then later spent 14 years volunteering and fundraising for our local public schools while our daughter was growing up.
I didn’t tell our story publicly for a long time because my husband never wanted his family to know what we had gone through (I did tell my family, just a few days after it happened), but I’ve been sharing it now for a few years and hope that it helps others to hear it as much as it helps me to tell it.