I was carjacked
TW: Assault with a deadly weapon
On Saturday morning at about 8:15 am, I pulled up to the Garden of Gethsemane parking lot, which is located steps from W Congress St near downtown Tucson. I’ve parked here dozens of times to go running on the Santa Cruz River Park Trail, and it’s a well-trafficked area, both with cars passing by and with people running or riding their bikes.
As I parked, I noticed a man and a woman walking on the sidewalk on Bonita Ave (which runs perpendicular to Congress) about a block north of me. I can’t tell if I’m projecting my experience on to my memories, but I remember thinking they looked weird. They were both wearing surgical masks, hats, and sunglasses, the woman had extremely long, jet-black hair, and they were walking close together, shoulder-to-shoulder, but not holding hands. People in the area don’t usually wear covid masks for open-air exercise—for what it’s worth, the “trail” is actually a twelve-foot wide sidewalk—so I figured they were being ultra-considerate.
I got out of the car, locked it, put my keys into my leggings pocket, and walked to the trunk. I set my phone and headphones on the car and used it like a ballet barre to do leg swings, ten per side, forward and sideways. The first set of 10 I was facing Bonita Ave. The second set of 10 I had my back to Bonita Ave. And on the third set of 10, I was facing Bonita Ave again—and I noticed out of my peripheral vision that the couple had silently split up. The woman was walking towards the front right bumper of my car, and the man had circled behind me.
I don’t remember deciding to run, and I don’t remember grabbing my phone, but all of a sudden I was sprinting across Congress St to the sidewalk on the south side of the road. My goal was to put as much distance as I could between me and two people whose behavior I had correctly interpreted as HELLA SUS. I didn’t expect him to chase me—really I had no idea what they wanted—but he did. And he was carrying a knife.
I tried to scream but I was running pretty fast. He was yelling at me, but it took several seconds to transition from my reptilian fight-or-flight brain to my I-can-understand-language brain. “DROP THE KEYS” he yelled. “DROP THEM.” I kept running because FUCK THAT and also LEGGINGS ARE TIGHT. My keys were wedged into my pocket, and I was fighting to pull them out and keep distance between us.
He was getting closer, so I yanked the keys loose and threw them into Congress St. Unfortunately, no cars were around to SQUISH HIM LIKE A BUG. As soon as I saw that he was running away from me, I called 911 and was speaking with an operator before he even got back to my car.
He got in the car, peeled out of the parking lot, and picked up the woman, who was waiting on Bonita Ave LIKE A PATHETIC, COMPLICIT CRIMINAL. That’s the last time I saw my car, and I have low expectations about getting it back. I really liked it. It was a 2013 Kia Optima that I got for an amazing deal back in July, and having it was what made Tucson start to feel like home. RIP, car—I miss you. I hope you know that I liked you a lot.
Over the past day, I’ve been careful not to engage in magical thinking about what I could’ve done differently. I made no mistakes and I regret nothing. If two huge fucking losers decide to carjack you, that’s on them.
I’ve also had to be careful about checking my ego because that diva wants to be a hero.
“Wouldn’t it have been cool if we had thrown the keys forward, made it back to Bonita Ave, and kicked that woman’s ass before the guy got back to the car,” my ego asks me.
“Wouldn’t it have been awesome if we’d had a gun and held HIM up at gunpoint and forced HIM into the trunk of the car before pushing it into a ditch?”
“You were faster than him and totally could’ve made it to the intersection and flagged down a driver for help!!!”
I have to remind myself that it’s over because part of me wants to go back and win.
I’m proud of my flight instinct for kicking in, but I’m also reminding myself that no response to assault is good or bad. It just is. I’ve had traumatic experiences in the past where I froze completely, and I don't blame myself for that. You can't prepare yourself for this shit.
Freezing during a past traumatic experience caused me to develop PTSD, which manifests as hypervigilance; I'm always on guard. I was recently watching the Flight Attendant on HBO, and there’s a scene at the end where something is amiss in a bathtub and the protagonist decides to stick around and investigate. FUCK THAT. If something’s off, get away, get in public, run towards people or cars. I don’t like that I live this way, but on Saturday it probably helped me avoid being face-to-face with a knife.
I’m grateful that this happened at my car and not while I was running. Getting attacked because someone wants your car is very, very different than getting attacked randomly or because someone just wants to hurt you. It would suck worse to be afraid of running than it is to be afraid of men wearing covid masks, sunglasses, and hats, which is where I'm at right now.
I guess the last thing I want to bring up is guns. At no moment in this experience did I wish I owned a gun (fantasies don't count). It wouldn’t have helped. There’s just no way I would’ve had it in my hand at that exact moment. But, I was so, so, so grateful that he didn’t have one. I don’t think he was expecting me to run, and he definitely could’ve shot me out of surprise or anger.
Talking about this experience has been massively helpful for me, and I appreciate everyone who’s reached out and shared the burden. If you’ve gone through something similar and have any hot tips for being a survivor, feel free to contact me.