UNITED STATES—No matter where you live in America, crime can strike at any given time. I know many of us suspect that if we live in certain areas the notion of a crime taking place significantly decreases, and to a degree I would agree with that assertion, but that does not mean one should allow his or her guard down.

I’m going to share a story from my own personal experience about being a victim of an armed robbery several years ago. I remember the incident like yesterday, but I tell people when you become a victim of a crime, it changes who you are as a person. The individual that you were post that crime ceases to exist. It’s not something that can easily be placed into words.

I was waiting at the bus stop getting ready to head to work, it was quite early in the morning, but it was a holiday, Labor Day to be specific. I had the eeriest feeling waiting at the bus stop, like something felt slightly off. I’m almost super aware of my surroundings. There were no headphones in my ear, I wasn’t on my cell phone. I was just waiting at the bus stop, but checking my surroundings every few seconds

For the life in me, I couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling in my stomach. After waiting a few minutes for the bus, which was apparently late, my instinct told me to leave and that’s where out of nowhere, two guys appeared, one pointing a large silver pistol at my face. Something told me the guy holding the gun was doing so as a part of some initiation, like it was his rights of passage to join some sort of gang. The guy with him appeared significantly older and seemed to be coaching him on what to do. I’ll never forget his large nose and his red hoodie that he was wearing.

This entire time, I was thinking where the hell are the police when you need them? Even worse, I just saw my entire life flash before my eyes, the things that I have done, the things that I haven’t done. It had to be the scariest moment of my life. They asked for my wallet and my phone, which I instantly gave with no hesitation. I was just hoping they would take what they wanted and let me go. No, that was not the case. Where I come from if you’re being pulled out from the open and into a secluded area, it’s not a good sign. I’m panicked now, because my guy is warning me that I’m about to be shot dead, and no one in my family is going to have any idea of what happened to me.

I literally begged these culprits, who couldn’t have been older than maybe 18, that I didn’t have ANYTHING else. I had given them everything that I had. It seemed to have resonated to some degree with the ringleader, who thought it would be noble to leave me a $1 to be able to go to work. The only thing that popped into my mind is just let me go, take what I have, but please spare me my life. Just like that, they fled the scene. I was a complete mental mess.

I was frozen in fear, I couldn’t move, I didn’t want to move, because I wanted to ensure they were not in sight. Once I deemed things safe, I quickly composed myself. My wallet was still on the ground, they only took the cash I had, which was only $40. I quickly grabbed my wallet and darted, darted, with fear as I continued to look back to ensure they weren’t watching me to get back to my house. I took shortcuts and all types of different paths to ensure I wasn’t being watched. When I got to my house, I fumbled with the keys panicking to get the door open.

Once inside, I felt a slight sense of relief, but I still had difficulty grasping what just happened: I was robbed; someone was on the verge of taking my life. It was something I never expected to happen to me, but it happened. It wasn’t like this was something I could keep a secret, I had to tell my parents, my siblings, co-worker; I felt like the pressure of breaking the news to loved ones would rip me apart. Their reaction to the news further reiterated how loved I was.

I recall filing the police report, and thought to myself; nope the authorities will never catch these guys. It’s not like the local TV stations were at the crime scene gathering details or specifics on the crime. I was furious about what transpired to me; I wanted revenge, I was angry, I was pissed, I wanted these guys to pay to ensure that no one else endured what I had. When it comes to crime prevention, the goal is to rid the street of criminals to prevent them from having the opportunity to commit crime after crime after crime with no consequences.

I was jumpy my first few weeks, ANYTIME someone walked past me or behind me (especially a complete stranger) I was on guard. It’s a feeling that I suspect will never cease to exist from my life. A person that is vigilant will be 10x more after such an incident. I may have become a victim of a crime, but I refused to allow that incident to manifest what would dictate my life.

You become mentally stronger, physically stronger, and you choose to take steps to regain the life that you had before that terrifying incident transpired. Life is precious, you never know when your time could come to an end, so appreciate, embrace and reflect on every moment.