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Being only eight years old, I was like any kid; I didn’t have much life experience. My dad was a helicopter pilot and we were living in Fort Benning, Georgia. Atlanta, Georgia was a metropolis nearly two hours away from my home. It was in the big city of Atlanta, inside our car, that I gained wisdom beyond my years in one night. Life’s experiences will get a hold of you to teach you an important lesson, no matter how old you are and whether you’re ready or not. It was a dark and rainy night that I learned to trust my inner guidance.
The wind beat the rain mercilessly against the windows of our tan Crown Victoria. The noise of raindrops drummed loudly against the roof of the car. The windshield wipers sloshed the rain back and forth across the water soaked windshield and the air was heavy with moisture. The only passengers in the car were my mom and me. She was driving and I was sleeping like the dead on the backseat, unbuckled, and stretched out supine on the long seat. The tension in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. My mom never liked driving in big cities, but she was especially tense that night due to the time of night, the heavy rain, the thick traffic, and endless construction. She was late picking up my father from the airport due to all of these circumstances.
While inching along in the unforgiving traffic, around a dimly lit traffic circle heavily blocked off with construction, our car jolted forward as the driver behind ran into our rear bumper. Deeply frustrated at the inconvenience, and an additional delay in picking up my dad, she pulled over as far as she could to the side of the road. She debated on whether or not to get out by herself to inspect the damage. While she sat in contemplation, her brow furrowed with fear and worry, a dark figure shadowed the window on the front passenger side. She peered out to barely identify a dark man wearing a police uniform outside the door. He tapped loudly on the window indicating that she should open the door for him. His uniform unwisely put her mind at ease. Without further hesitation, she slid across the front bench seat and unlocked the passenger side door.
The man instantly slid into the front seat of our car, and in seconds blithely sidled up to my mother, shutting the door behind him. Not a word was spoken between them. The silence was deafening. The unknown man held a knife to her stomach, put his arm around her shoulders, and pulled her into a sidelong embrace. My mom was paralyzed with terror.
It was at that point that I woke up. I did not stir. It took a moment to reorient myself. I knew I was in our car. I knew that was my mom in front of me. But I did not know who that dark man was with his arm around my mother’s shoulders. A voice of inner guidance in my head said clearly, “Say something.” I had no idea what to say. My childlike nature was to watch the scene, not participate in it. Again I heard, but with more urgency, “Say something.” All I could think to stutter was, “Muu-uuther?”
His head spun around faster than a top. He peered with horror at me through the dimly lit interior. Like a flash, he bolted out of the car and disappeared into the night. My mother was shaking and crying while she quickly shut and locked the door from the inside. She continued to cry as she turned on her blinker hoping to merge back into traffic. No one let her back in right away. While we waited, we sat quietly in fear. We worried we wouldn’t get away. We listened to the tick, tick, tick of the blinker and the pattering of the rain.
After picking up my father at the airport, we spent an additional hour searching for a policeman, a real policeman, to notify. At a lonely gas station, just outside of the big city, we finally located a policeman and my parents shared the story with him. The man was flabbergasted that my mother let the man into the car. He asked us if we ever read the papers. We discovered the man was wanted by the police for raping and murdering single, white females in that area of Atlanta, using the exact tactics he employed on my mom. The man was so caught off guard by my speaking from the backseat that it saved both of our lives. But, I wouldn’t have said a word, and it could have been too late, had I not listened to the wisdom of my inner guidance. Even an eight year old can learn a powerful lesson that will last a lifetime. I will never forget that lesson learned on a dark, rainy night in Atlanta, and I never delay in responding with action when I hear my inner guidance. You never know; it could save a life.