Our Sanctuary

By , Onancock, VA
The smell of the bay welcomed me as I stepped out of the car into an entirely different world. I bounded up the worn, old rock stairs and removed the key from its familiar position under the doormat. The door creaked open and I was invited into the tiny cottage by familiar smells and sights. Immediately, I proceeded to “our” room, really just a screened in porch with a bed and pull-out couch. My brothers followed like puppies, and we all stood side by side and looked out at the magnificent view of the waves lightly crashing on the beach and pelicans diving for fish just below the surface of the glistening water. Unable to contain the pent-up excitement a second longer, we threw on our bathing suits and ran up and down the two short dunes. It was our beach, the beach we had been coming to since I was four, and the beach that had far too many great memories to count.
It felt as if in all my eight years I had never been this happy. Standing in the lukewarm water and smelling the sharp, but humble perfume of the marsh mud made my heart race in anticipation of the week ahead. My brothers were already completely submerged in the water, and my parents had just now finally made it down after unpacking. They began remarking on how nice it was to be back, but I hardly even heard as I ran into the water, not stopping until my legs gave out and I collapsed into the bath-like, pleasantly salty water. My hands drifted to the bottom, and I picked up a small periwinkle. I smiled as it slowly crept out of its shell and suction-cupped itself to my hand. “I could live like this forever,” I remarked to no one in particular. My dad came up behind me and threw his arms around my waist, thrusting my small body up into the air. I floated on my back, giggling uncontrollably as he threw my brothers also. Up above, a raven flew over, with a squirrel in its mouth, still alive. I winced as I saw the poor squirrel struggling and the raven viciously and slowly killing it. My giggles subsided and I was left with a creepy, ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Suddenly feeling not so in the mood for swimming, I waded to shore and perched onto a beach chair, watching my happy family. “What’s the matter?” asked my mom when she noticed I wasn’t in the water. I assured her it was nothing, although I still wasn’t feeling quite right.
After another hour or so, we all went back to the house to shower off and feed our hungry bodies. I lay on the small bed on the porch after a meal of veggie burgers and watermelon and listened to my brothers plan out the week. The things I had loved doing just last year didn’t seem anywhere near as appealing, and I yelled at them to just go to sleep. Surprised but worshipping of everything I said and did, they obeyed. Eventually, slightly comforted by the sound of the waves crashing in the distance and the sleep sounds of my relaxed, innocent family, my body calmed and I nodded off.
At about 2 A.M., I was startled awake by a very loud noise. My brothers also jolted up, and we all looked at each other with fear in our eyes. I crept to the end of the bed and nervously peered out the door leading to the living room/dining room. What I saw still haunts me-two figures dressed in all black standing on top of the front door that they had somehow shoved down. The same door that, not even twelve hours ago, I had opened with the key from under the doormat so excitedly. My brothers wide eyes looked at me questioningly and I motioned for them to get under my bed, NOW. As quietly and quickly as possible, we all squished underneath the tiny bed and clasped each other’s hands tightly. I heard my mom and dad slowly waking up, and then my dad walking over to the window that connects the screen porch with the only bedroom. I didn’t want to say anything, but I silently willed him to please, please lock his bedroom door and not go out to investigate. Unfortunately, the men started opening drawers and rummaging for any valuables they could possibly find. My dad heard the ruckus, and opened his bedroom door, probably thinking we were looking for the candy and sweets my mom had hidden somewhere in the kitchen. “Wha-,“ I heard my dad yell and then a gunshot. I heard a heart wrenching sound, a sound that I had never heard before that I can only describe as a cry of extreme pain. My brothers looked to me for comfort, but I could not provide any. I heard my mother come out of the bedroom and scream. “You need to either cooperate or I will do the same to you,” said the bigger of the men. Suddenly, I remembered that my mom had plugged the cell phone into a plug by my bed, one of the only plugs in the old house. Soundlessly, I reached my hand to the cell phone, muted it, and dialed 911. I held it as close to the sound of my mother “cooperating” as I dared for about a minute, and prayed that they would understand and get here as soon as possible.
My father’s moans of pain were growing louder, and my mom was sounding more frantic as she pleaded for them to just take what they wanted and leave. They noticed the door to the porch, and asked her what it leaded to. She replied, in a shaky voice, that there was absolutely nothing in there except for a couch and bed. This was true- except we were in there also. I heard them walking to the door, and squeezed my brothers’ hands until our knuckles turned white. They peered in and saw the crumpled sheets where we had been sleeping. “You were lying to us, weren’t you?” said one of the men, and stepped onto the porch. He looked under the pull out bed, and then under the bed we were under. The other man pulled out my youngest brother, William, first, and then Henry. My mom ran into the room and begged for them not to hurt us, anything but to hurt us. He ignored her requests, and pulled me out also. We were all beyond the point of tears, and stared at these men with wide, panicked eyes. All that I knew to do was pray, so I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed. I prayed for our safety, that the police would come soon, that my dad would not die, and that I would never have to see these atrocious men ever again.
All of a sudden, I heard sirens and saw flashing lights outside of the front door. Two cops ran up the worn, old rock stairs and yelled for everyone to put their hands up. My brothers, mother and I all sank into a corner, relieved and gasping for breath. Two men with a stretcher ran up the stairs and lifted my father’s body onto it. I could see that he was very bloodied, with a large gash on his upper thigh. Meanwhile, the men were getting handcuffed and being read their rights. I don’t particularly remember what else happened that night, except sitting, wide-awake, at the hospital for what seemed like an eternity, in my mother’s arms.
The damage to my father’s leg was, luckily, not enough for amputation. He still has to make time three times a week for physical therapy. One of the things that still hurts me most is that those men took his ability to go hiking, something he absolutely loved, away from him. Also, our entire family still goes to counseling and we can’t stay in the house alone. We have had multiple security systems and complex locks installed, but it’s pretty much to no use. Those men took away our ability to be able to sleep, in our home, with ease at night. I lie awake, thinking of all the horrendous details of the robbery. What gets me the most is that the beach house always seemed like such a safe place, a place to get away from the evils of humanity. But even in a place sacred as it was, bad things were able to find us and affect us in a way as gargantuan as this. My thoughts of humanity have been changed forever, because two men wanted to earn some easy money. I have to remind myself that not all people on this Earth are going to have good intentions, but the majority mean well and have the same beliefs as me. As was stated simply, but powerfully, by Mohandas Ghandi, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”





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