The Stranger Had a Gun

“The Stranger Had a Gun,” Ensign, June 1995, 62

The Stranger Had a Gun

A few years ago I returned from a shopping errand to my van in the parking lot. Just as I finished loading my purchases and buckling my fourteen-month-old baby, Derek, into his seat, a stranger approached me with a gun in his hand and told me to get into my van. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. My main concern was Derek, strapped in the back seat—how could I protect him? I cried out, “Heavenly Father, please help me!”

When the man got into my van, I panicked and ran, shouting for help. I heard a shot and felt something hit me; a bullet had grazed me just below my shoulder blade. Looking back, I saw that the man was now pointing his gun at Derek. I ran back to the van’s side door and screamed again for help. A second bullet fired at point-blank range hit me in the chin, shattering my lower jaw. I fell to the pavement and watched as the attacker drove off with my baby.

Fortunately, a nearby nurse and paramedic gave me first aid, and a helicopter soon arrived to take me to the hospital. I was in surgery for five hours. The bullet had gone under my tongue, shaved the optic nerve, passed between the spinal cord and another main nerve, and exited through the back of my neck. Doctors were amazed that I wasn’t paralyzed or dead, but I knew that Heavenly Father had preserved my life.

While I was under anesthetic, my husband appeared on a television newscast to offer a reward for the safe return of our son. We felt confident that Derek would return to us because I had been promised in a priesthood administration that I would be reunited with my family. The blessing also promised me a return to complete health.

At around ten o’clock that night, a car traveling down a four-lane road swerved to miss a tiny figure. Immediately recognizing the child from the newscast, the occupants of the car pulled over and rescued him. Derek’s blanket was found beside the roadway within three feet of an open manhole. I cannot express the joy and thankfulness I felt when I awoke to find my baby safe and well in the arms of his father.

I was in the hospital for ten days, and my mouth was wired for five months. My eight operations have included bone grafts from my hip to my jaw. During my recovery, I discovered I was pregnant. I thought about all the anesthetics and drugs that had been administered to me and all the operations that still lay ahead—how would they affect our baby? The timing seemed so bad. And then, four and a half months after the attack, little Derek died in an accident at home. I found it very difficult to accept that my son had been preserved through the kidnapping only to be taken such a short time later. However, the Lord helped me in my grief.

Just over a month after Derek died, our baby Richard was born ten weeks early. What a blessing he has been in our lives! And one year later our daughter Felicity was born—ten weeks early and on Derek’s birthday! I like to think that the Lord knew that a new son and daughter would help my husband and me heal from our tragedies. Through the ordeals, I have developed a greater appreciation for life, and my testimony of the priesthood has been strengthened. We are grateful that no matter what happens to us on this earth, our family—including Derek—can be together for eternity.