3.15.2006 : I jumped out of the trunk and lived to tell about it.
It’s been 9 years since that fateful day and I can remember it like it happened yesterday. It’s amazing how certain dates can hold so much power and energy. 3.15 used to be a day of mourning and terror for me, but over time it’s turned into a day of courage and celebration. Who knew that morning I’d be attacked by three men? Who knew I’d be assaulted by acid? Who knew I’d be stuffed into the trunk of my own car and be forced to make life-altering decisions? I certainly didn’t, but I’m so, so thankful to be here to live, love, laugh, and share my story to heal, teach, and inspire.
In 2010 I received the Courage Award from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. I did not feel qualified or deserving of it because I didn’t think I’d done anything special to earn it. And when I was chosen to be featured on “I Survived” I was surprised because there were so many other people with more courageous stories. The bottom line is I did what I felt like I had to do in the moment. And I rationalized that anyone else would do the same. Right? I just knew that I wanted to live. I did not know that I was that courageous or strong until it was my only option. And I did not know that this would be the first of two life-altering attacks. Fortunately today I can find humor in my experiences. I am pretty bad ass. After all, I jumped out of the trunk and lived to tell about it. 🙂
Below is an excerpt from my book chronicling events from March 15, 2006.
On March 15, 2006, I was a 23 year-old young woman living in the South Loop. I was working, I’d just started graduate school, and I was excited about my future. As I left for work that morning, I sang a little tune and had a little extra pep in my step. I was excited about all that life had to offer me because my life was just getting back on track after tragically losing my mom in 2005.
It was an average morning where I got ready for work and headed down to the parking garage. I lived on the 16th floor, so I took the elevator down as usual while thinking about my To Do List. As I entered the parking garage and walked to my car, I noticed a white hatchback with at least three Black men in it parked a few spaces from mine. It felt strange to see them there, but I kept walking. It was when I walked past them that alarm bells went off. I became the center of their attention, and they stopped talking to each other to look at me. Their eyes got big and that’s when I realized I was who they were waiting for. They swiftly moved towards me, so I instantly threw my hands in the air and shouted, “You can take my keys and my purse!” Instinctually, I went into my Mayweather boxing stance hopping from one foot to the other ready to move any which way. My nerves were bad and I couldn’t stop twitching. It took a split second for me to realize they weren’t after my purse or my car and in that moment I took off running.
In my head, I asked myself, “Fight or run? Fight or run?” Little did I know, I’d have to do both. The biggest guy in the bunch ran up and punched me square in the face. I saw him cock back and the way he pursed his lips I knew he was going to hit me hard, but I didn’t have time to protect to my face. His fist seemed like it was the size of my head and his knuckles came at me in slow motion. I don’t remember feeling any pain or hitting the ground, but he knocked me out. I do remember seeing a burst of white stars and my body jerking. The cement felt cold against my cheek and warm blood oozed around my top lip like hot lava down the side of a mountain.
I don’t know how long I was on the ground, but I jumped up and screamed while licking my teeth with my tongue to see if any were missing. Blood gushed out of my nose as the fear inside me took over my body. My adrenaline gave me the strength of the Incredible Hulk. I flailed my body like a frightened rooster as they picked me up and carried me by my arms and legs-sometimes dropping me while I tried to escape. I was not giving up without a fight, especially because I didn’t see any guns or knives. While ruthlessly kicking and punching me, they shouted profanities and threats. “Shut up bitch before we kill you!” I tried to bargain and reason with them telling them as rationally as I could why they did not want to do this to me. But my cries and pleas fell on deaf ears. They were on a mission and I knew I’d have to deter it by any means.
They finally got my purse and car keys out of my clinched hands, and dragged me to my car. When I saw them pop the trunk open I imagined death. In that moment my trunk looked like a black hole; one that I would spend eternity in. They were going to throw me away like trash, so I kept fighting. I fought to keep them from slamming me in the cramped space alternating between going limp then stiffening up like a board, but after a few minutes they overpowered me and closed the trunk. Thud! It echoed in my head. Time stopped and I laid there in silence inhaling the smell of gasoline and mildewed rags. I was alert as ever, but I needed time to figure out how I was going to escape. I could hear my heart beating in my ears as fear welled up in my throat like a clogged drain. I felt immense doom. I started panicking and began wildly punching the perimeter of the trunk desperately searching for an exit. I managed to push the middle compartment of the back seat down and could see the big guy in the driver’s seat of my car adjusting the mirrors and the volume button on the radio. (These crazy men were going to kidnap me in my own car!) When I realized that I couldn’t squeeze my body through the tiny hole between the trunk and the back seat, I momentarily gave up and shortly thereafter resorted to plan “B.” I paused to catch my breath and continued feeling around the trunk.
After all of the scuffling, I still managed to hold on to my cell phone. I thought, “Amen! I will call 911 and someone will rescue me.” When I squeezed my phone it illuminated the trunk. I desperately patted around until I hit a lever and the trunk magically popped open. Freedom. I was momentarily relieved and took deep breath. Fresh air and light! But as I attempted to climb out the two guys in the car behind me jumped out and ran towards me. Before I could attempt to fight them off the big guy came out of nowhere and sucker punched me in the head. It stunned me for a second, but I never stopped swinging. He then proceeded to snatch my phone. Somewhere between fighting and trying to climb out of the trunk he splashed me in the face with a liquid substance. The splash was hard and strong like a wave crashes into a rock. The moment it hit my skin, it sizzled like chicken in hot grease. I brought my hands to my eyes and shrieked in pain. The burning was so intense I was convinced that I was blinded. My contacts melted onto my eyes like shrink wrap and when I tried to pull them they wouldn’t move. The liquid ran down my lips and into my mouth and felt gritty on my teeth. As I cowered in pain the big guy stuffed me back in the trunk like a sleeping bag into a tiny pouch.
I retreated. I felt defeated, but still charged. I was scared, alone, and in pain. The fumes from the liquid substance burned my nose and irritated my skin intensifying my claustrophobia and my desire to just get out. I felt like a spider being drowned and tormented by an angry child. I paused and there was a moment of silence. Suddenly I heard loud rap music; so loud that I could feel the bass vibrating in my chest. I knew the big guy turned up the volume so that no one would hear me scream because I couldn’t hear my own voice. Yet another attempt to count me out. Just as determined as they were to “get me,” I as determined to get FREE! Talk about scared!!!!
I had a calm moment before I knew what would be a storm. I heard a voice that was familiar. It was stern, but comforting. It was the voice of my mother. I had always thought of her as a guardian angel, but it became real. She was in my heart and on my mind and I credit that visualization with what would happen next. I envisioned her saying, “Kar, you better fight! You better get out of this trunk! Your sisters need you!” I immediately reverted to my childhood. My mom was always telling us stories and teaching us to be aware of our surroundings. When I was a little girl she said, “If someone ever tries to kidnap you or tries to take you somewhere against your will you do whatever you can to get away. It doesn’t matter if they threaten to shoot you or kill you, don’t go. Because nine times out of 10 if they take you to another location you will not come back alive.” I was young, but that stuck with me. It scared the hell out of me, too. I never imagined that happening to me, but as I came back to reality, it was happening to me. I kept thinking about a girl that I saw on CNN. She’d been kidnapped after leaving a bar with a strange guy. Sadly, she ended up dead. For some reason I kept seeing my face on the news as that girl, and that was motivation enough for me to get the hell up out of there.
I mustered up all of the energy I had and formulated a plan. I felt around the trunk and found something metal. It felt like a little pipe and I’d later learn it was a tire iron. I clinched it tightly in my right hand. I was curled up on the right side of the trunk where I saw the trunk release button glowing in the dark. I felt the car move. He backed out of the parking space while the other car followed behind him. I popped the trunk release button so that I could see what was going on. I could see them trailing. Only this time, after popping the trunk, I held it as near to be being closed as possible with my left hand. The trunk bounced up and down as I tried my best to keep it from flying open. When it did open, I peeked through the crack only to see the guys in the car trailing behind us honking and shouting. They were trying to get the attention of the big guy in my driver’s seat, but he’d turned the music up so loud he couldn’t hear them. I thought, “Good! I still have a chance.” I remained crouched down in the trunk remembering that it would take exactly four revolutions down the ramp of the parking garage to get to the exit. I counted each revolution in my head. I knew we were turning because I could see through the crack, as well as feel the motion of the car. My body would jerk to the right every time we hit a corner, so I counted.
1 . . .
2 . . .
3 . . .
4. . .
The car was moving fast, but that was the least of my concerns. I knew that once I saw the sunlight I would be free. The moment I saw light, I flung the trunk open and hurled my body out of the car. I didn’t think, I didn’t flinch, I just acted. My body hit the ground and I rolled. The car following us came to a screeching halt. The kind of screech that makes you pause and wait for the crashing and clanging of metal. Only there was silence.
When I opened my eyes, there was a bumper above my head. I’d almost gotten run over. I immediately leapt to my feet, tire arm still clenched in my hand, and screamed for help. I wailed while violently swinging the tire iron watching as the bad guys sped off; one in my car, the others in the white hatchback. There happened to be a neighbor standing at the entrance to the building. He saw my bloody face and ran to my aid. “Are you okay?” he asked with concern. I pushed past him babbling, “They tried to kill me! They tried to kill me. They’re gonna come back!” I ran inside of the building to get help. That’s where I saw the door man. He was frazzled by my appearance and could hardly get his words out, but he immediately offered his assistance and tried his best to calm me down.
“What thee hell just happened to me?” That was all I kept asking myself. Who would want to kill me? And for what? Who would want to kidnap me let alone hurt me? I was a good person. I knew this. I stayed away from trouble, so I thought, and I did not have any known enemies. I mean, I barely even got traffic tickets. So, how could something like this happen to me?