I consider myself an adrenaline junkie and love haunted houses. I have been skydiving and swimming with the sharks. There is just something about that controlled fear that I have always found exhilarating. With all of my scheduled scary moments, nothing prepared me for the real, raw fear you experience when your life might truly be in danger. This is how social media saved my life.
The Normal Start to the Day
On September 12, 2013, I went to work like normal. I taught 8th grade English, and our lesson that day focused on “In the Moment” writing. This makes the writer emotionally vulnerable as they allow the reader to truly get in their mind at a particular point in time. I would later be posting my own “In the Moment” writing piece on social media. It was that post that showed my readers raw fear and had a Facebook friend call the cops when I stopped responding to comments.
The Car in the Ditch
After school, I went to the gym like normal. Then, I picked up my baby daughter from daycare. My husband was working late, so I went and ran errands. By the time I was heading home, it was already dark. At the time, we lived in the literal middle of nowhere. As I went to turn right onto our driveway, I noticed a car in our ditch.
They started honking at me, but they didn’t appear to be stuck or to have a flat tire. I have seen more than enough horror films to know better than to stop and offer help with a baby in the car. The weather was perfect, so I just called my husband since he would be coming home soon so that he could help if they were still there. In hindsight, I wish I would have called the cops then to come and help.
The Unlocked Door
I often go on autopilot performing the same routine every day. I didn’t even think twice that our back door was unlocked. Sometimes I lock it; sometimes I don’t. That’s a perk of small-town country living, right? What was not part of my normal routine was that our house was in the process of being entirely repainted. Therefore, all furniture was pushed to the center of each room and covered in plastic wrap. It was also out of the ordinary that $500 had gone missing from my wallet that same week. However, I couldn’t be certain that I didn’t misplace it or that it hadn’t happened at school, so I had a good cry about it and then pushed it to the back of my mind.
There were so many signs if I just would have gotten off of autopilot and paid attention. I took my sleeping daughter upstairs as quietly as possible so that I didn’t wake her up. Before tip-toeing downstairs, I started her mobile. I was exhausted and walked to our master bedroom back door to let the dogs outside and locked the door. Then, I went into my closet to slide out of my jeans when I heard a rustling noise coming from my bathroom just on the other side of my bedroom. The chill went down my spine, and I was instantly on alert. I turned off my closet light to where it was pitch black, held my breath, and listened.
Convincing myself that it was the air blowing on the plastic, I started breathing normally again. I left the lights turned off. I figured that on the off chance someone was in the house, I knew it better than they did. Feeling my way along the walls quietly, I wanted to make sure the back door was actually locked. It was not, so I locked it for sure this time. I then worked my way to each of our four exit doors and locked them all. When I was at the garage door, I heard a door slam shut. The dogs started barking like crazy, and my daughter started crying. Simultaneously, our AC had just kicked on. Sometimes the AC caused our bedroom door to close. That had to be it.
The Facebook Post
I ran upstairs to my daughter’s room and shut the door. It does not lock, so I placed my daughter in the closet and slid all the furniture in front of the door. Afterward, while rocking my daughter back to sleep, I turned off that now creepy lullaby music and listened. I giggled as I convinced myself I was losing my mind. I posted my own “In the Moment” writing on Facebook since we had just been talking about it hours earlier.
Sitting in the closet next to my daughter, I alternated responding to comments and talking to my husband, mom, and friends on the phone. I thought even if someone had been in the house, they were gone now. However, all of the pieces started coming together. The car honking in the ditch, the missing money, the rustling in the bedroom, the slamming door. I couldn’t hear over my own heartbeat as I realized I didn’t have a way to protect myself and my baby girl. My husband wasn’t home yet, and my phone was now out of battery. This is the second time I should have used my phone to call the cops, but I didn’t.
When the banging started on my daughter’s nursery room door, I felt the most intense pain in my chest. I couldn’t even understand through my sobs that they identified themselves as the police. When I did, I didn’t believe them and had them slide identification under the door. I moved all of the furniture, picked up my still sleeping daughter, and let them in. I’m embarrassed to say that the very first thing I said wasn’t something profound. Rather it was, “Will you please walk with me while I put on some pants?”
Social Media Saved My Life
It turns out that when I stopped responding to comments and phone calls, my Facebook friends started panicking for me. It might seem shocking that my family didn’t call the cops or that I didn’t do it myself, but I have logical explanations for that. I would have rather stayed on the phone with someone I knew talking myself out of my fear. I downplayed the situation on the phone saying I was just going crazy and hearing things. It had been a long day. However, my written words showed the true fear that my spoken words were masking. That fear grew when I stopped replying to comments under my post, and one of my Facebook friends called the police to come to check on me.
The police confirmed my suspicions that it did appear that people had been in our house. As they drove up, the car from the ditch sped off in the opposite direction. However, since it was not forced entry and nothing was stolen, all I could do was file a police report. The police gave me some off-the-record advice. I learned a lot of life lessons that night. The one I am focusing on sharing is that there really is power in words. I believe social media saved my life that night. If the cops had not scared them away, would they have come back for more?
For another positive look at social media, check out the following article by fellow writer, Erin Prather Stafford: