The call came in on my cell phone on a recent sunny afternoon. At first, there was a jolt of joy upon hearing my college-student daughter's voice, always a delight that closes up the distance between Arizona and Portland.
Her voice was calm and even. 'Hi, Mom. I have to tell you about something that happened. But first, I want you to know we are all fine,' she said.
Shots of alarm raced through my mind. The speech sounded rehearsed, as if she was trying to protect me. I got a vision of her red Honda Civic totaled, and her in a body cast. I took a deep breath and waited for the punch line.
'Last night, while I was brushing my teeth, someone came to the door. My roommate let him in. She thought he was our neighbor from across the way. She screamed. I ran into the hallway, afraid she was hurt. That's when I saw him. He had a gun and was pointing it at her head.'
I checked to make sure I was still breathing. The room was spinning.
She went on to describe the details of a horrific night in which the young man directed her and her two roommates into the back bedroom where he had them lie face down in a circle, heads all touching. He pointed his handgun from head to head, threatening and yelling. All the while, these three scared students each prayed to their own god. When he came to my daughter, she looked up, smelled the steel mixed with sweat and saw up close the barrel of the gun.
He took their purses and interrogated them for the PIN numbers on their bank cards. They responded with numb compliance. He fondled one of the girls. She politely asked him to stop. By some miracle, he did.
After yelling at the girls to stop looking at him, he left the room saying, 'Don't get up. Don't move.' They lay there and waited. Not knowing if this man was alone or with others, they wondered if this was the beginning of a very bad ending. After a while Ñ one minute, one hour, who knows? Ñ they slowly got up, shaking and holding one another. The door had been left open.
He took their purses. But that's not all. He also took their freedom and their innocence. While it was certainly a dumb move to open the door late at night, these girls paid a high price for a moment of poor judgment. The detective working on the case calls them 'very lucky.' My daughter calls it a 'wake-up call.'
This hard lesson will stay with these girls for the rest of their lives. They're now closely following safety precautions imparted to them by the police. They go places in groups more often than not. They check out their surroundings before getting in and out of their cars. They have apartment security guards escort them from car to door. They always remember their cell phones.
The intruder is still out there somewhere. The police will shelve the case if leads continue to dry up. It's up to us to remember and remind our children Ñ not to scare, but to protect.
Dennis-Crosland's show, 'Family Survival,' airs from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sundays on KPAM (860 AM).