I think it’s a pretty common feeling among the prepping community that we’re “ready for anything.” I mean, when you’ve planned for an end of the world scenario, a bit of crime in the neighborhood or a hurricane knocking out the power seems quite minor in comparison. Hell, I thought the same thing … all the way up until I heard my neighbor let out a scream that made most horror movies sound like Saturday morning cartoons.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me set the scene for you. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m from the southern United States, but I’m currently living in South Africa. As you may or may not know, crime here has reached epidemic levels. I don’t consider it safe to walk down the street outside of our complex after dark. Most houses have bars on the windows and doors, as seen in our previous articles, and complexes of flats generally sport eight to ten foot walls with electric fencing on the top. It’s not exactly Mayberry.
All this being understood, our area is par for the course. We have a large concrete wall with electric fencing, an electric gate, and armed private security that responds faster than most police departments in the United States. The regular police here normally take anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes to pitch up after being called.
Well on this particular night, I was sitting at my computer reading over some prepping material. It was around one in the morning, and my better half and the dogs were snoozing away. Deep in thought, I was suddenly jarred as a scream the likes of which I had never heard echoed down the stairwell of our four flat, one hundred year old house. The hair stood straight up on the back of my neck and both dogs started barking furiously. “What in God’s name … “
I stood up and tried to quiet the dogs so I could hear what was going on. My mind was racing. Another scream and a door slamming open. “Someone . . help … (scream) … flat … knife … (scream)” I absentmindedly thought to grab for a pistol that wasn’t there. Between the human rights violating gun laws, and the fact that I’m not a citizen of this country, my .40 is still sitting in a gun case in the US. Our biggest dog was trying to muscle his way out of his crate. “Better than nothing,” I thought. I popped the latch and put him into a down/stay in the middle of the living room. The barking was painfully loud.
There was a fumbling and banging of feet coming down the wooden stairs in the main hallway along with more screaming. “Help! Please help! Let me in! Please let me in! He has a knife! Help!”
I was calm and collected right? I was a forward thinking, trained for stress, ready for anything, not going to be the victim, prepper.
Wrong. My mind froze. I panicked. Where had I put the keys to the front door? I scrambled to the key rack, patting my pockets, looking desperately for one of the two sets of keys that would open the doorway to the hall.
“Help! Open the door! Help me! Please!”
The keys weren’t on the hanger. “Oh my God!” I screamed in my head. “She’s going to get stabbed!”
“Where are the keys?!” I yelled to my now fully awake partner. “Aren’t they on the rack?!” she screamed back.
“Please help!” My neighbor continued to pound on the door.
As if someone pulled the blinders off of my eyes, I looked down on the couch to see both sets of keys side by side, in plain view. How many times had I looked directly at them?
I quickly fumbled to unlock the door, pulled it open just enough to squeeze a person through, yanked my neighbor inside and threw all my weight back against it. The auto lock latched as I turned the deadbolt.
She was white as I’ve ever seen a living person. By this time, three of the four panic alarms were going off. Out of breath, she collapsed onto the couch and managed to get out an abbreviated version of events. I later received the whole story.
Her flat is on the second story of the house, and has a decent sized balcony.
She decided to go outside for a last cigarette before bed, and after opening the door, came face to face with a burglar who had manged to bypass a wall, electric fencing, razor wire, and a two story climb. He grinned and took a step towards her as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife. That’s when I heard the initial scream. Stepping back, she slammed the door to the balcony, rushed out her front door, down the stairs, and started banging on my door.
The private security company was in the hallway within about forty five seconds of the whole ordeal kicking off. They had been down the street patrolling after a series of break ins, apparently committed by the same two guys that had tried their luck with my neighbor. Guns drawn, they cleared the stairwell and the entire upstairs flat. The police showed up twenty minutes later. I’m told they caught the guy that was the look out, but the one on the balcony jumped into the garden and made away into the night.
At the end of the night everyone was fine, though shaken, and I even managed to get a bit of sleep.
So what can you take away from this story? The amount of time that transpired while I was frantically searching for the keys was no more than ten seconds. It seemed like an eternity though, and I was still shocked, and a bit ashamed of how my constitution seemed to have utterly failed me when faced with an actual emergency. If the intruder had been pursuing here, the situation could have ended much worse.
No matter how cool and collected you think you are. No matter how many articles you’ve read, videos you’ve watched, books you’ve highlighted, and imagined scenarios you’ve rehearsed in your head, never assume you’re totally prepared for an emergency situation.
On that night, I had a rude awakening. I implore you to learn from my experience.
By: Will Archer
The Final Trawl