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Facing the Danger: Keeping Your Family Safe

My wife, kids, and I strolled through Chicago’s Grant Park on a hot August weekday afternoon as we leisurely made our way back to the hotel. We completed a fun yet exhausting visit to the Shedd Aquarium. The Summer breeze cascaded gently through the vibrantly green leafed trees which provided welcome relief from the intense heat. The two little people of our group attempted to keep pace with the grownups but inevitably began to show signs of fatigue. Our 6 year old son exclaimed “your legs are TWICE the size of mine which means I have to do TWICE THE WORK when I walk with you!” Of course our 4 year old daughter concurred with his assessment and initiated her relentless rallying cry “pick me up Daddy!!” Given that we were less than 10 minutes away from our destination, I encouraged them to soldier on even adding the incentive of a snack of their choice at the hotel food mart. After muttering a few indiscernible replies, they agreed. We crossed Columbus Drive and began to make our way onto the vast Balbo Avenue overpass which crossed over the CTA train tracks. As I looked off into the distance, I could see we were not alone.

There was a shirtless man heading in our direction. He was in his late thirties to early forties possessing a lean yet muscular build like a basketball player or sprinter. He walked with a frantic disjointed cadence possibly due to intoxication or narcotics. Having been born and raised in the Bronx along with years of experience commuting on the New York City subway system, I recognized the potential danger. I considered crossing my family to the other side, but the flow of traffic in both directions was too heavy at the moment. I discreetly moved my wife and kids over to my right to keep them at a safe distance from the man approaching us on the left. With my head facing forward, my sunglasses blocked the man’s view of my eyes even though they were focused on him. As he nearly passed us by, he turned and threw an air punch at my head while loudly grunting “bam” as if he connected. I recoiled back slightly instinctually putting up my hands (Wing Chun Kung Fu training kicking in, thanks SIFU) saying “Whoa, relax!” which was more for me to keep calm in case the man intended to fully engage me. Thankfully he kept walking and so did we. My wife’s reaction was that the man was crazy. My kids, being weary, didn’t seem to notice what had occurred.

Back at the hotel, I tried to remain composed and act like everything was normal. Yet that evening, I kept on replaying the incident in my mind over and over again. What if the man actually made contact forcing me to fight him? His bloodshot eyes combined with his agitated body language indicated he was angry and under the influence of alcohol or drugs. it would have been an extremely violent altercation. If i won, how would that level of violence have affected my kids. And more importantly, what if I had lost. What horrible fate might my family have endured. It was an awful, sickening feeling. Yet I found comfort in the fact that my family was safe and unscathed. Still, for this Dad, it was a sobering dose of reality introduced into my family’s blissful existence. One I’ll soon never forget.

in the hope of learning from my experience, I’ve taken the following steps to be better prepared for future threats:

  • Continue Martial Arts Training. Self Defense classes taught by reputable instructors can instill a more favorable reaction when facing a threat.
  • Establish a family emergency plan for a variety of scenarios. Impart responsibilities to the kids as well based on their age and overall maturity level.
  • Obtain current safety information about a locale when taking a family vacation . I’ve been to Chicago several times before but apparently the crime rate has skyrocketed since the new administration took office in 2011. My out of date knowledge misinformed me about the level of safety my family could expect during our vacation. A critical error that could have had deadly results.

What situations have you encountered which placed your family in harm’s way? How did you handle the incident? What steps do you recommend to keep your family safe in the presence of an imminent threat?

  • Chris

    I’ve been in that same position. You’re body kicks in the fight or flight adrenalin and then you realize flight is not an option because your family is with, so you instinctively prepare for fight. Senses are heightened and you’re on full alert mode, which doesn’t wear off for quite some time after the altercation. Glad nobody was hurt.

    • cutemonster

      Thanks Chris. In retrospect, my family and I were very fortunate.

  • tbwynne

    Scary. Thank goodness that it didn’t escalate, and that the kids weren’t freaked out by it.

    • cutemonster

      About a week later, my son did inquire about the incident. We had a conversation about the dangers of drug use, violence and more. Truth be told I was saddened that he would lose a little bit more of his childhood innocence. Growing pains are tough for parents too.