Sunday, 11 May 2008

Our family and guests survived an armed attack last night: check out our statistics

I am surprised I managed to type the title of this blog post, considering how tired and shocked I am. My fingers are shaking and icy, my skin is itching, and I wish I was anywhere else but sitting in my own home.

I have had 'several' medicinal tots of whisky today (starting at 5 am, when I woke up with my teeth chattering) and still my legs seem made of water.

It's not a surprise to me that our house should be attacked - I've been anticipating having 'my turn' in South Africa's crime wave for at least twenty years - but it is a shock. I just didn't expect it to happen last night, at the innocent hour of 7.30 pm. I didn't expect to have three gunmen burst like a swat-team through a closed automatic gate, literally bashing the wooden panels out with their shoulders. I didn't expect that I'd be standing cheerfully in the driveway, welcoming dinner-party guests who had just driven in. I didn't expect to be forced to lie face-down on the cold concrete of our driveway, my shivering little nine-year-old daughter tucked into my side, a gun pointed at our heads.

It's a long story (about eight minutes in all, although it felt like eighty) and I'm already tired of telling it, so I'll give it to you in a large nutshell. They burst onto the driveway with guns, put four of us face-down and stripped us of valuables. Then they swaggered into my home, held up my husband and two of our friends, and accosted my teenage son in his upstairs bedroom. They threatened to shoot my dogs if I didn't 'quieten them down' and told me to cover the eyes of my daughter, because, my personal gunman said, he didn't want her to have to 'go for trauma counselling'. They slapped my husband when he told them we didn't have a safe or guns - and we don't; why would we? - and then gave him another slap when they found he was wearing a cheapie watch. They demanded my wedding band, and then threw it back in my face, telling me, 'You can keep this'.

Then they herded the four inside-victims onto the driveway, and told us driveway victims to stand up. ('Cover the baby's eyes,' my gunman said to me. 'She mustn't look'. ) I can't even begin to tell you what went through my head at this point.

But we were 'lucky'. They marched us upstairs and put us in a bathroom. We waited until we thought they were gone, and summoned help.

So here are our personal crime statistics:

Bodily injuries: None (apart from a small tender spot over husband's one eye)
Children involved in incident: Two
First-timers (ie, crime virgins, never been attacked before): Six
Third-timers : Two
Guests in our house who were shot 11 months ago in similar attack: One
Time taken for armed response to arrive: Two minutes
Time taken for police to arrive: 45 minutes
Suburb where this happened: I feel too scared to say, but it's near Zoo Lake in Johannesburg
Evil bastards with guns: three inside, three or more outside
Number of armed guards outside house at time of attack: one private guard standing in adjacent driveway; two patrolmen in armed-response vehicle
Lot of good this did: fat
Valuables taken from house: A bit of cash from wallets. A cell phone. And a... actually, who gives a thruppenny fuck about what was taken?
Biggest topic of conversation among victims: Knysna or Cape Town?
Brave, co-operative, big-balled kids, husband and guests: seven
Mommy who remained icy calm during attack: me
Mommy who can't stop crying: me
Kids who aren't going to school tomorrow: three
Number of times today I've been advised to go, with my family, for trauma counselling: 86
Number of times I've said 'Of course we will' today: 86
Lives changed forever: Nine, including son who was out of the house at the time, but who is so shocked and upset that he is chalk-white and has spoken hardly a word all day.
Number of residents in our suburb who responded to my email alert: Three out of fifty or so recipients
Number of lovely friends, close neighbours and relatives who phoned, visited and lent succour: I love you all.


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Muriel said...

O Juno, this is so awful. What a terrible thing to go through. And what irony in someone having respond just this weekend to your January post '10 brilliant reasons to live in Johannesburg': a Brazilian who wants to immigrate to Jozi and asks you if it's safe! Sterkte, dear thing. x

Juno said...

Thanks Mur darling. Will post again in a few days. Coping with fall-out this side. And thanks everyone else who's written, emailed and phoned. Will e you later Mur.

Tati Capelli said...

I'm really sad that you and your family had to go through this awful experience. Although it didn't make me not want to live there anymore (my city is not so different, actually) I must confess I still have tears in my eyes to think about you having to go through this with your kids. My heart goes to you and your family, even though I'm too far to be of any real help...

meggie said...

So awful. My husband was held up at gunpoint when we lived in a Hotel. He was ok, but his friend shook for months. I just got enraged when I heard. I have no idea how I would react in the event. Especially if I had children with me. I hope you get counselling, for what it is worth.

tonypark said...

My God.

Juno, when Muriel emailed me I checked the post straight away.

I'm so pleased that you're all (relatively) physically unharmed.

South Africa can be more like a war zone than the war zones I've actually visited. Don't dismiss the counselling.

xox from Nicola and me.