My daughter, Breea, was 7 years old when three masked gunmen broke down the door to our hilltop home. I was 38 and climbing the financial industry corporate ladder as fast as I could. A single mom on a mission. It was my career that ultimately led to the worst night of our life. We were kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint for fourteen hours while strapped with explosives, I was than forced to rob the bank I managed. One wrong move and we would be blown to bitts. Yet following this horrifying violent crime there was no help or tools given to us at the scene or in the immediate aftermath. Nothing at all to guide us and give us hope that someday we could return to a productive, happy life.
PTSD feels like a hungry wide-eyed wild cat hiding in the cracks of the mind, eating away at violent trauma victims. It is real and yes, makes you feel like you are going insane. Hollywood is even taking note of this very debilitating disorder as depicted in the recent release, Reign Over Me. The shooting incident at Virginia Tech is the latest tragedy leaving behind a wake of post trauma victims. But will they be given the information and the help they need in time to begin to tame the wide-eyed wild cat? Sadly, in many cases such as ours, the answer is no.
Everyday I began to beg on bended knee for wisdom, discernment and courage. My daughter and I would pray together and than we began to pray for the accused. I knew I had to do all that I could to be her hero, the best role model I could be for her and for others and teaching her by example to reach as high as we could, beyond blame or anger or hatred was the answer. What has happened in the six years since that horrifying ordeal is nothing short of a miracle. We never went back to that house of horrors. I never went back to my 13 year career. I cashed in the 401 K and all of our savings just to live and heal and be together. We lost everything...except each other. Soon I found myself in one of the only places I felt safe, the library. I began to study our rights and laws that were supposed to protect us. I wondered why no one showed up at the neighbor's house where we had run for help after I turned over the loot and made my way home to find my daughter still bound and gagged in the closet. Why were we sent to a hotel room in the dark of night...alone? Was there anyone who could help us?
On that free library computer I started the Violent Trauma Awareness Project, a non profit organization that assists victims, educates others about the very real struggles of those with PTSD following violent trauma and a youth leadership program called Girls Against Crime. Than the unthinkable happened. Retaliation. After the grand jury proceedings we were told that death threats and fire bombs were being hurled through windows of those who testified. We might have been next. Without delay, I knew I had to get my daughter to safety. We ended up in the wide open spaces of Alaska where healing was the only thing left to do.
We are back in California now and my first book, Held Hostage:The True Story of a Mother and Daughter's Kidnapping was released four months ago. My second book, Hostage No More is in the works and will help others work through trauma together as a team, just as my daughter and I did. I will be receiving the Woman of Distinction Award at the end of this month and my daughter was honored with the Peace Hero Award for raising money through Girls Against Crime for crime victims in the community.
I had the opportunity to be the kind of mother I never would have expected to be, stronger than ever, better than ever. Breea is thirteen now and says "Just because something sad and scary happened to me doesn't mean the rest of my life has to be sad and scary." Well, I say that is it in a nutshell! But just imagine if I chose to be bitter and angry and filled with hate towards the people who did this to us? What kind of role model would I be and how would that have shaped her world, her future? I'm glad we will never know!
So how do we as adults and parents become our child's hero and find peace of mind for our children and ourselves after we have experienced violent trauma? I say we do it together, as a team. To survive the isolation and terror of the aftermath of trauma we must first re-connect with ourselves and then with our children and stay focused on being the best role models we can be as we move through and beyond violent trauma.
My dream now is to coordinate a PTSD information forum for the community of Virginia Tech and others across the country. How will I do this? I don't know exactly but I have been told that those who surrender to goods works will be equipped. I surrender!