UNITED STATES—I do not know how it came up, but it did. Something that happened to me almost 15 years ago shocked my niece who is only 11. She is very precocious and perceptive, so she rarely misses anything people. I was discussing something with my sister and for some reason we were talking about jury duty and I had explained all the questions that were asked by the judge and I had to acknowledge that I was the victim of an armed robbery and that the crime was never solved.

When my niece heard I was robbed at gunpoint, she had a slew of questions. When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? Were you hurt? How did you feel? How did you react? I still recall that incident as vivid as I can recall, September 6, 2010, around 7 a.m. I was getting ready to go to work and I have always been perceptive of my surroundings, and I just had an odd feeling that day I cannot explain it.

Out of nowhere a gun was pointed at my head and I was accustomed by two assailants who wanted my wallet and cell phone. The cell phone I gave immediately, the same with the wallet as I pleaded for my life. Why? Well, where I’m from if you get robbed in most cases, you don’t leave unharmed. They dragged me to an alley and I just recall, “This is it. This is how I’m going to die. This sucks. There is so much I want to do and accomplish in life, and it’s not going to happen.”

They kept asking me, “Where was the money” and I just recall tossing EVERYTHING out of my pockets letting them know I had given them everything I had. I had nothing else to give. I feel like that quick thinking in all honestly might have saved my life. They took the $40 out of my wallet the cell phone and fled the scene. I tried to compose myself because I couldn’t process what just happened. My hand is trembling and I cannot control the shaking.

It was stunning, and this fear was riddled throughout my body in ways that I cannot describe with words. MY ID, my credit cards were still in the wallet that was dropped on the ground. I immediately grabbed it and made a dart to safety. I’m hyperventilating, wondering if I’m being watched. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life beyond the time I almost died in a grease fire. I had second degree burns on my left and right arms, part of my chest and part of my face. That is another story for another day people.

When I felt safe I called my parents to alert them what transpired and they were visibly upset and shaken, they just wanted to assure that I was ok. Physically, yes, mentally, not even close. I did speak with a therapist about the incident because I felt like I needed to talk to someone who didn’t know me and wasn’t invested in what transpired. I needed a bouncing board. That incident without a doubt has changed me because I’m even more aware of my surroundings in the public than ever before. A complete stranger can’t just walk up behind me without me being slightly on edge especially if I’m going for a walk.

Will it ever change? I don’t know, but I know I don’t like to be defined by that incident at all. Yes, a police report was filed, but to this day those culprits were never found or charged with a crime from what I know. Would I testify in court if it every transpired? I would without a doubt because I would not want anyone else to endure such a violent and terrifying situation. However, I don’t want people to consider or attempt to label me as a victim, I know that is societal terminology, but I’m a survivor and I don’t want to be defined by that situation in my life or how people perceive me.

Life is life. Good things happen, bad things happen, but you don’t have to be defined by your worst moments. You can take the bad and turn it into something good. Be an advocate for victims of crime; be boisterous about ensuring more is done for a particular issue or cause that matters to you. Don’t allow people to label you or define you, you get to do that yourself. As I informed my niece, it was something that happened, I survived and I am stronger as a result of it. Yes, that saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” is very cliché. However, it is so true America.