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A Man With a Gun

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By Brendan Schaller

I moved to Philadelphia on March 3. On April 12, I had a gun pointed at me inside the front entrance to my building. I live on the edge of Fairmount, and always hear about how safe the area is, but the reality of such situations is that they can happen anywhere, to anyone.

My friend Alyssa was visiting from Canada, and this was her first time in Philly. I have never lived in a city before, and I have a tendency to observe my surroundings and stay alert. This guy was walking down my street at the wrong time, and the time it took to unlock the front door was enough time for him to form a plan. Once we got in the entrance, he was standing in the doorway before I had time to close it.

I heard his voice, ordering, "Get down on the ground," but all I saw was a gun pointed at me, and by some sort of protective instinct, was standing directly in front of my friend, blocking her from him. Neither of us can recall his face, because we couldn't quite grasp the reality of what was happening. He repeated his command, and I began to oblige. But when I moved to do so, he took a step out of the doorway. Without thinking, I slammed the door in his face and locked the deadbolt. He tried to force his way in once before taking off down the street.

I know this sort of thing happens in the city, but it's not something that's ever happened to me. We couldn't describe the gun much because I don't know the first thing about guns. I couldn't describe him other than what he was wearing, but now I swear he's every person who walks down my street. I have a new anxiety every time I walk outside at night, because this didn't happen on some street somewhere in the city that I can avoid. It happened where I live, right outside my front door.

In the short time I've lived here I have not met any of the neighbors on my street. I live alone, and don't have someone there to know if I got inside okay. To hear the police call it what it was, attempted robbery, is a sobering feeling. He didn't get our money or our phones, and no one got hurt. But what I lost instead was my comfort. I'm uneasy and afraid when entering my apartment in the dark. I look up and down the street, on both sides of the sidewalk, before I get out of my car. I walk hastily up to the front door, shove the key in the lock, and hope this time it doesn't stick again.

After filing a report with little confidence that anything will come of it, I received a pamphlet in the mail: Support and Assistance to Victims of Violent Crime. It sounds different that way. I am a victim. Now, that fear can't be something that defines or controls someone, but it's a tough word to consider. Victim. Sure, the crime was only attempted, but the attempt or act itself is what defines that situation.

Maybe we're only victims if we allow ourselves to be. Maybe we're not victims of the crime, but victims of fear. And that fear is winning at the moment, but we can't let it keep us from living. The way to win this is to keep living, and hope the nerves settle and that lightning doesn't strike twice.

Considering the circumstances, I'm lucky nothing was taken and that my friend and I were safe. I'm thankful for friends I can call when I get home at night, and for daylight savings time allowing me a few extra hours of safety. I'm thankful for instincts, quick action, and the fact that maybe I can handle myself better than I thought.

I know people who have lived here for years and have never experienced something like that, but the truth is that it's common, and it certainly could've been worse. Life is full of fear and scary moments. We can't let it keep us locked in our rooms at night. We have to beat it by showing ourselves that we're strong, and not afraid. Some idiot with a gun isn't going to take anything from me. If he tries, I'll just slam the door in his face.

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