I woke up to rustling and rummaging downstairs. Things being shuffled around and knocked over – not big things like furniture – more like papers and books. Knick knacks. Like someone was trying to find their way around in the dark except that it was light. I got out of bed to investigate. I have lived alone for more than 10 years, I have a black belt in tae kwon do, and I just don’t scare easily. But then I got to the top of the landing, and the distinct sound of footsteps made me lose my confidence and forget about the black belt. I scurried back to my bedroom, closed and locked the door, and dialed 911 with unsteady fingers. In the moment it took the dispatcher to pick up, I reconsidered my rejection of a landline. What if my cell phone hadn’t worked? He listened patiently as I described the situation with a voice as shaky as my hands, and then apologized 10 times in advance if it were a false alarm. “Ma’am, it’s not a problem. This is what we’re here for.”
He radioed for a car, and I gave him my entry code as he did not want me to leave the bedroom until the officers arrived. He needn’t have worried. I was now locked in the bathroom within the bedroom, near tears. The dispatcher asked a few practical questions but mostly did his best to calm me down with a story of homeowners who’d made a similar call the day before after hearing glass shattering and rummaging noises. A deer had crashed through their sliding doors and was dazed and panicked, prancing through their house. “It could be a small animal,” he said. I kept apologizing, telling him how awful I’d feel if it were nothing. “The car is at your property. Stay where you are until Officer __________ knocks on the bedroom door and identifies himself,” which he did moments later. “I’m going to hang up now.” “I can’t thank you enough,” I said.
A flood of relief quelled my quaking as I opened the door for the officer, thanking him profusely, too. “Everything seems okay. I see no sign of forced entry or disturbance downstairs,” he said as we descended, me on tiptoe cowering behind him like some kind of scared cartoon character.
Indeed the tableau was just as I’d left it the prior evening. “Thank you so much for coming. I’m so sorry. I have no idea what it was, but I was certain…”
He raised an empathetic hand. “Ma’am, it’s no problem,” and...you guessed it...“It’s what we’re here for.”
I apologized and thanked him several more times as he took down my information and headed out to do more serious police work.
Still aquiver, I sat to sit and breathe and assuaged my embarrassment by thinking what I’d have counseled my children or friends to do. “Just call. That’s what they’re there for.”
I have no idea what I heard or thought I heard or dreamed. But I felt 100 percent certainty, especially after the third noise, that someone or something was downstairs. And black belt or no, I had no intention of confronting an intruder. It’s easy to take first responders for granted because most of the time, thankfully, we don’t need them. But in this case I did, even though I didn’t, and I’m very grateful they were there.
Photo by Diane Lowman