Rockville, Maryland is a little town just outside Washington, D.C.
I had taken a semester off from school to go to work in an effort to try to determine what I wanted to do with my life. I worked for a small electronics company in Rockville.
On the morning of December 9, 1982, around 6:50 AM, I was just getting to work and pulled into the parking lot just across the street from the office. About halfway across the parking lot, I heard an explosion and before I could turn to see where it came from, some unseen force slammed my head into the driver’s side window.
For some reason, I had stepped on the clutch and the brake and stopped the car. There were no seat belt laws at this time and I certainly wasn’t wearing mine. I pulled myself off of the door and looked out the passenger side window. Most of it was gone. A huge hole had been blown out of it and I was covered in glass particles from that window. I was also covered in blood. Mine!
I had just been shot! In the face!
It was about that time I noticed I could not feel my lower jaw. With all the blood and debris inside the car, my first thought was that my jaw had been blown off. I slowly reached my hand up to my face, not sure of what I would find, and felt my jaw. It was still there. There was, however, a good sized hole in the right side of my face. I was still bleeding pretty badly so I put pressure on the wound with my right hand. Thoughts were spinning through my head. I had just been shot – in the face. I was still in one piece, as far as I could tell, so I got out of the car to see if I could find who had done this.
About as quickly as I got out of the car, I jumped back in because it began rolling backwards. I had forgotten to put it in gear or set the brake. I went ahead and parked the car and headed across the street to where I worked. I figured I needed to get to a hospital and I couldn’t drive a stick (the same car in which my Dad taught me how to drive) and keep my hand on my face, so I went looking for someone to drive me there.
Prior to being shot, the street was busy with activity, lots of cars whizzing by, but now, the area was dark and deserted. I recognized a Vietnamese woman from one of the assembly lines from work and I asked her if she could help me. As I stepped under the street light, where she could see me, a look of terror came over her face and she ran off muttering something I didn’t understand. Wow, I knew I probably looked bad, but I didn’t think I looked THAT bad! Even the secretary freaked out and ran off when she saw me enter the building. It turned out she ran to get help and find a towel for my face. The pressure from just my hand wasn’t doing much to stop the bleeding. One of the guys from work volunteered to drive me to the only hospital he knew in the area – clear on the opposite side of the beltway on the other side of Washington D.C. – instead of the one just a few miles down the road (nearby).
When we arrived at the hospital, I walked into the ER and the admitting nurse, upon seeing me, got up from behind the counter, and left! Boy, this really wasn't my day! It turned out that she had just gone to get some help. After filling out the forms and before the doctor arrived, I got a chance to go into the men's room and try to clean up a little bit. I finally got a look at myself in the large mirror in there. I looked like I had been through a war. I was soaked to the skin in my own blood, through my down vest, flannel shirt and t-shirt. Even my white tennis-shoes were now bright red. I was a sight. No wonder that lady ran off!
While waiting for the doctor, a male nurse came in and started taking my blood pressure and all that stuff they do when you go to the ER. We sat at a small table with him directly across from me. He pulled out a thermometer and tried to take my temperature. I told him I wasn't sick, that I had just been shot and needed to see the doctor. He said it was standard procedure and that I couldn't see the doctor until we finished up here. I stood up and informed him, in no uncertain terms, that I had just been shot in the head and that I was still kicking and to get me a doctor...NOW! (I was getting a little impatient by this time). He got up and left and the doctor came in almost right away.
The secretary from work, bless her heart, called my mother to tell her what happened, but had no idea which hospital I went to. I didn’t know either. After several phone calls, she finally tracked me down and drove out there. By the time she arrived, the doctor was stitching up the hole in my face, while a police officer stood on the other side of me asking questions. It was then that I learned that at least three other people were shot at in the same area around that same time that morning. I was the only one that got hit. (Lucky me). The doctor had also told me the bullet had come really close to the nerve in my face, which explained why I couldn’t feel my jaw right away. I had also lost a lot of blood. They took some x-rays of my jaw, told me I was fine and sent me home. My mother drove me back to work where I got in my car and drove it home.
The embarrassing part? After going through all that, after having a bullet blow a hole in my face, all I got were three stitches covered with a single, normal sized band-aid. I guess I expected a large bandage with lots of tape or something. Instead, I looked as though I had merely cut myself shaving! I know that sounds silly, but I had lost a lot of blood by this time.
A few days later, I went to see my oral surgeon to get the x-rays taken in preparation for getting my wisdom teeth out in a couple of weeks. After looking at the x-rays, he walked in and asked me if I knew that my jaw was broken. I had no idea! I knew it hurt like crazy whenever I tried to eat, but I didn’t know it was broken! The people at the hospital said I was okay!
I ended up having my jaw wired shut for the next two months! Needless to say I was on a liquid diet for a while. So much for Friday night pizza with the guys.
My mother put just about everything you could imagine in the blender. I know she loves me and she meant well, but pizza through a straw is just plain gross!
I got the wires off and had my wisdom teeth pulled on my 21st birthday. Not necessarily the way I had originally intended to spend the day upon turning 21.
Through it all, I never once found myself angry with whoever did this to me. I only wanted them found so I could ask them why they did it. The person(s) responsible were never found. Nevertheless, I forgave them, and tried my best to put that day behind me. I forgave them. I didn’t even know who it was I forgave, but the Bible said to do that, so I did.
Even though I spent the six to eight years in a fog, I never once felt any anger towards whoever did that to me. (I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t remember things, old friends now seemed like strangers to me. Part of my life was missing).
But I'll save that part of the story for later.
So, how did you spend your 21st birthday?