Guest View: Saved by instinct |

Guest View: Saved by instinct

Once, long ago when I was 14, young and naïve, I walked down my own block heading toward home. I wasn’t very far away. I had walked a friend a little ways over to the next block. I wasn’t supposed to be off my own block at the end of the day. In Sacramento, in the summer time it was light out until at least 9 at night. It was only about 7:30. I walked quickly to my own block now, my long blonde hair catching the breeze as I walked, barefoot. Enjoying my summer and heading home.

I was maybe a half a block away from my own front door when all of a sudden, a red pickup truck came driving quickly toward me. I heard it before I glanced behind me and saw it coming. I hurried up all of a sudden, feeling an instinctual foreboding. My entire being all of a sudden told me to run. First to hurry and then to run. As the pickup came along side me now, a man jumped out of it and began to run after me. It felt as though I had known in that second before it happened that I was in danger. He chased me and was getting so close I thought, oh my god, I am not going to make it home. It is too far. What should I do?

I knew that if I continued to run that he would catch me. And what about the man driving the truck? He could catch me if I tried to make it home. One of my best friends that I had known all of my life lived two houses away from me. I ran up to her front door. I placed myself between the screen door and the front door. The man who was chasing me stopped dead in his tracks. I was pounding on the door and screaming “help me, please open the door.” As I did this, the man watched and waited. He was standing on the grass maybe 35 feet away. I felt the chill and the fear exploding inside me. What if my friend or her mother were not home? I don’t know how long it took as I pounded and screamed, but finally the door was being opened. I was so much in terror that I pushed my way into the door and ran over everything in my path as far into the house as I could go. I was screaming, “they are chasing me. Help me.” My friend’s mother slammed the door shut and locked it.

The man who was chasing me got back into the truck. We watched out the bedroom window as they decided to drive away. No one called the police. In 1971, more often than not, these things were never discussed. I thought my parents would be mad at me for walking down the street.

This experience was to change my life forever. It changed how I felt about the world being safe. How safe can it be when you are chased down the street that you live on? I had never before, or since been so afraid for my safety and my life. I never talked about it to anyone, ever. It was just something that I remembered and used on a daily basis since then to keep myself safe. No more carefree walks alone down the street. This became a part of my being from then on.

When Jaycee Lee Dugard was taken in 1991, my son was 9. Everyone was terrified that this could happen in our little mountain town. I walked my son to the bus stop. It was only next door to our home. I was terrified once again, and remembered the horror of being chased down my own street.

Our Soroptimist Club began a program called Fighting Chance in honor of Jaycee and her family. The program teaches children in the fifth grade how to fight back, how to run away right away.

One day I stood up and told my story. I told it because I wanted people to know that my instincts are what saved me. When this happened, the thing that got me away and possibly saved my life was the few extra seconds of running that my instincts had told me to do. As I told my story for the very first time, I was struck full force with the memories of this terrible few minutes of my life. I realized that I was shaking. I had never realized how deeply this still affected me because I had never told anyone. Every time the subject of Jaycee came up, I would wish that something would change, that her family could know what had happened. I was always haunted by her face because I had been that little blonde girl, too.

So, now, here we have some answers. I am amazed. All my love is sent to you now. Thank God you are alive.

Since Jaycee was discovered, I marched in a Pink Ribbon Parade once again on Sept. 6, this time welcoming her home to her family. There were other adults there that day who told me that they had almost been abducted. I have to say that for me and probably many others who have been terrorized, chased and almost abducted, this parade was very empowering and I was so glad to have been there. So many children watched as we marched. For them, I think they will know and could tell that people care, and that even as children, they have the power to fight back. I, and many others, have come full circle. This parade and the recognition of why we were there in many ways and on many levels has brought healing, love, sharing and our strength as a community to the forefront. I am proud to live here at Lake Tahoe.

– Laurie Ault has lived in Stateline for 24 years.

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