Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | September 28, 2012

Someone tried to force their way into my apartment tonight

Someone tried to force their way into my apartment tonight

I was sitting alone in my living room on my couch when my doorbell range, at 9:30pm. That’s late for me. Yes, my lights were on, but still. My roommate is visiting her family, so no one else was there but me. I wasn’t expecting anyone and was about to head to bed. So I got up and peeked out the peep hole. It was a strange guy, bald head, with a backpack and a giant stick with a grip coming out of it – either a tennis racquet or a baseball bat. So I slipped the extra safety lock, and moved back. Terrified, and hoping that the person would just go away. But he didn’t. He tried the door. Hard. He didn’t ring the bell again, nor did he knock or anything. I figured, if it was someone I knew who needed to get in, they’d text or call me, say “I’m on your doorstep, can you let me in”, adn that would be that. But it wasn’t. So I panicked. I IM’d a friend and said “what would you do in this situation?” then she talked me down just enough to call the cops, which I did.

I had to rehearse my script a few times, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it, since words were escaping me, but I did call. This is a big deal, because I’m terrified of the phone. I do not speak well on the phone and using it is not something I do well when I’m not stressed into utter panic. Why is it, that at times when you most need your words, they are the most likely to run away?

The dispatcher answered the phone and threw me a question that wasn’t on my script: “Is this an emergency?” – I didn’t know how to answer it, because, to me, yes, this could be an emergency. Someone just tried to force their way into my apartment. And they had something in their backpack that might’ve been a weapon. I’m a young female, alone, and injured. This qualifies as an emergency. If it didn’t, would I have even bothered to call the police in the first place?! And she interrupted me at “someone just tried to break into my apartment” with “is this an emergency” again. So I thought again… “is life or limb at risk in the next 30 seconds?” because that’s a major emergency. So I said “I don’t think so” to her question, and she put me on hold. I hope whoever had a more pressing emergency got helped. But eventually I was able to talk to a dispatcher and give my script. They asked me what the person looked like. Balding was all I could say. My apartment isn’t that well lit from the outside, and I couldn’t say height, weight, or race. At one point, the dispatcher put me on hold, then came back and said “did you say he was heavyset?” and I said “no, I didn’t say anything about his weight. I couldn’t tell you that information, I don’t remember, and couldn’t really see in the first place. There was either a tennis racquet or a baseball bat sticking out of his backpack, and he was balding. That’s the only information I can give you”. I think they were trying to plant information in my brain or something.

Eventually, a police officer showed up on my doorstep, and said that I’d absolutely done the right thing, and he even suggested that I barricade my door for the night. He was really nice and calming and told me that my decisions were the right thing to do, and that I had been completely reasonable. And to call back if anything else happened.

It might’ve been some person who was lost and looking for a friend’s apartment. Or it might’ve been someone trying to find an easy to rob apartment. Or someone planning to bludgeon anyone who opened the door for him. I’ll never know, and honestly, I don’t care. They scared me so much that I still can’t sleep. I will, eventually, I’m sure, but still. I’m not sure if the scariest part isn’t that the guy looked marginally like my crazy downstairs neighbors who have been harassing me and my roommate because they can “hear us walking” in our apartment upstairs. Usually, the sounds they hear have nothing to do with us at all.

So anyway, I had a major scare tonight, and I handled it well. Though under no circumstances would I ever like to repeat it. I managed to get my panic under control enough to do something I’m normally not capable of doing, and use the telephone, because it was the best course of action, and I needed to do it to remain safe. I even managed to speak on the telephone and answer some unanticipated questions. And now my anxiety is through the roof, I’m utterly terrified of the person coming back (though I’m pretty sure it was probably just someone lost in the complex – its badly labeled and not terribly well lit, so I can easily imagine the circumstances that would cause someone to try to find an apartment and stumble on mine.)

At least my door was locked. (and its now barricaded, too). Now I’m going to go stim under a pile of wonderful stuffed animals who make me feel safe.


  1. I am very glad that you are ok.

  2. That is really frightening. I am sorry that this has left you so nervous, I would be too. Take care of yourself.

    • Thanks. I’m just glad I survived and it was probably just some lost person…

  3. well done for being so calm and calling for help, you did the right thing, I’d have been scared and unsure of what to class the emergency as too!!!

    • Thanks 🙂 I definitely wasn’t calm at first! It took me about 5 minutes before I could even IM my friend and hope she’d reply and help me figure out what to do…

  4. Oh my! I am so sorry that happened. You did do the right thing, and I probably would have said YES it was an emergency! We have a special lock (which is actually to keep my wandering sons IN) but it is kind of like one of those old chains that lets you open the door just a crack, although more secure. I don’t directly open the door for anyone that I don’t know anymore, especially at night. My boys also like to stim in piles of stuffed animals. It is wonderful. 🙂 Stay brave!

    • Thanks! It was definitely a hard question. Wasn’t expecting it. Didn’t have the verbal processing ability to answer it. the poor dispatcher… But very very VERY glad that its over.

  5. So glad you are ok! You were so smart to call the police. I hope you were able to sleep. Take care!!

    • Thanks 🙂 I almost couldn’t – it took me quite a while, and a panicked IM to a friend to calm down enough to be able to even THINK about calling. It’s too bad that 911 isn’t on IM for those of us with verbal issues.

  6. My daughter is Aspe, I can imagine your panic and she freezes when she’s panicked, she wouldn’t have been able to make that call. I don’t know you but if you need to text someone you can text me and I will call your local police for you! If not me find someone who can be your safety net. If the guy is at your door trying to get in, IT IS AN EMERGENCY!

    • Thanks, Shawna. 🙂 I IM’d my friend and basically was like “help me help me help me what do I do, help!” and she talked to me on IM for a little while until I was calm enough to come up with a script to call the police. I barely managed to call them, but I did, and the dispatcher, while not terribly helpful at first, did eventually help me. The officer was really nice too, for all that I was stimming like crazy in front of him… he asked me “is there anything else I can do to help calm you down before I leave to go search the neighborhood?” which was definitely very nice of him.

      And yes. It was an emergency. But in my brain, it wasn’t as big an emergency, as say, someone having a heart attack – by the time I managed to call, the guy had left. I didn’t know if he was coming back, obviously, but he wasn’t there anymore…

  7. You did the right thing. I would have said it was an emergency. You did not know if he was coming back and he had something that could have been used to hurt you! You were very brave. Calling the police had to be difficult. Glad you had a script and that the officer was helpful and kind. Report it to your landlord too. The complex should know so they can take additional security measures for all the residents and warn your neighbors to look out for each other.

    • Thanks. Yeah, it was terrifying. Though ironically, the act of actually calling the police was nearly as terrifying. Glad I was able to do so, though…

  8. Whew! I feel for you–that was a terrifying experience. I am glad you are okay and proud that you handled yourself so well. It is very hard to think straight and pull together a good solution.

    Take care,

    • Thanks. 🙂 I think this is a good learning experience for people – teach autistic kids appropriate scripts to call for help in emergency situations if they need it. And yes, I’m really glad I was able to think straight. Speaking, on the other hand, not so easy…

      • Bingo! I have an emergency script for Tyoma in case of a family accident. I understand the speaking part. I sound half-way hysterical just talking to the cable company! 🙂

  9. I’m so glad you are okay, and I think you did a great job of keeping your cool. Shared this on FB. Great post.

    • Thanks 🙂 Soooo glad that it turned out to be probably nothing. but my god, that was terrifying! Thanks for the share. 🙂

  10. Oh my! You did well in a scary situation. Good for you!

  11. What a scary situation! I thought you did a good jon handling it. I’m glad you’re okay. I know I would have over-thought the questions, too.

    • thanks. Yeah, “is this an emergency” is not a good question for me when I’m already completely panicked…

  12. I would definitely say that was an emergency. I was taught that one thing that would-be robbers do is that they ring the doorbell and if you answer they pretend to be salesmen or something, but if you don’t then they figure no one is home and it is an easy house to rob. Just a little tidbit I picked up somewhere.

    I have also been told (and seen it to be true when my students have called 911 impulsively) that if you call 911 and don’t say anything, just hang up, they will call back. If they don’t get an answer, they will send someone to check it out just in case. (This only works if you call from a land line.) So, even if you can’t get words to work, you can still call 911 and get help. (They do this in case it is violence situation where the person is in danger and can’t let the attacker know she is calling for help, or it will put her in more danger.)

    • Right, that makes sense. Thanks. Except, it doesn’t work for calls from cell phones, sadly. And yes, at least I had the good sense to not answer the door in the first place…

  13. You were very brave, E! Brave is not about not being afraid or not experiencing fear… it is about being afraid and still being able to take action!
    You handled this very well…

  14. I am so thankful you are safe. You did a very good job handling the situation and you showed a lot of courage with that phone call. Thank-you for sharing this story with us

  15. I found your post by the way through “Flappiness Is”. She shared it on facebook. : )

  16. Gosh E. what a horrible experience to go through. I am so glad you’re safe, but am concerned about the neighbor below you that you mention. Could it have been him? Life Skills Teacher is correct. If you call 911 from a land line and then hang up the police will come to check. (Just for future reference, not that you’ll need it!) ((((E.))))

    • Thanks Ariane. 🙂 I don’t have a landline, though, and it’s not worth the $10+/month to be able to make a 911 call like that form it once in a while.

      I don’t THINK it actually was the neighbor – he wouldn’t have bothered with a backpack to put the weapon in, and usually its the wife who comes to yell at us for “walking”. (They used to ring our doorbell insistently until we’d get up out of bed at 11pm, to yell at us that we were being too loud… talk about crazy neighbors). But if he shows up again, I’m definitely telling the cops to go investigate the neighbors…

  17. I just Googled it and apparently in some cities you can text to 911. Maybe this is something you could find out about so that if you are ever in another possible emergency situation you have that option. This has made me think about how we will teach our son to respond in a situation like this, so Thank You for sharing.

    • Hmmm… I too just googled it – good thought! Looks like Verizon is leading the way in that. Lucky me, my phone is verizon. 🙂

      And yes, definitely worth teaching your kids about this sort of stuff! It can happen…

  18. God, this must have been terrifying. But you handled it admirably. Stay strong and safe!

  19. I’m proud of you! I know it’s hard to keep calm orccalm down in emergencies, but you did enough to call emergency services. I know you’re scared still & that’s normal. I hope your anxiety lessens soon. *gentle hugs*

    • Thanks. I’m actually pretty good at being uncannily calm in many situations. This wasn’t one of them, but I was able to channel that for enough time to make the 911 call…

  20. I can’t imagine having to call the police when I’m all alone. I’m terrified of the phone and of police, combine the two together and it’d be impossible for me to get words out. We were robbed once before when I was younger, but I wasn’t at home, nor was anyone. We came home and I panicked because our dog was hiding and the lights were on and everything was a mess. I checked for my gameboy and pokemon cards above all…Funny to see where my mind was back then.

    Hopefully you got enough sleep and got to calm down enough. I know how you feel, it’s terrifying.

    • Thanks! I, too, am terrified of both the police and the telephone. And of talking on the phone. But I was more terrified of the potential of some crazy guy forcing his way into my apartment and bludgeoning me with a giant stick. Plus my friend who I IM’d in a panic helped me figure out what I would say on the phone.

  21. So glad you are okay. You were very brave. I think anytime someone tries to open your door it is an emergency, but I understand why that question was hard for you. I’m glad you have a friend who was able to help and the officer was kind. I just have one thing to add to all of the helpful advice others gave you. You might want to alert the police dispatchers that you sometimes have trouble speaking on the phone and explain that there are no children living in your home, so if you call 911 and cannot speak they will stay on the line to give you time to respond. Another thought is that even cell phones can be traced although not as quickly as land lines. Some cities are working on getting their systems to where they can locate you when you use a cell phone.

    • Thanks! Actually, I live in university sponsored graduate housing, so the number isn’t 911, it’s a regular 10-digit number that goes to the internal dispatchers… might be worth telling them I don’t do well on the phone though.

  22. Oh god, that is horrible! I agree with everyone who said you absolutely did the right thing. I hope your roommate comes back soon and I hope whoever it was moved on – far, far away… You were incredibly brave and I’m glad that you were able to use the phone. The emergency call takers are usually pretty abrupt (I’ve had to call in once or twice and it’s always unsettling), but I’m glad the cop was kind and reassuring… I hope things have calmed down by now and that you are feeling safer…

    • Thanks. I definitely agree – the dispatchers I’ve talked with have not been terribly reassuring or kind. Though they do have a really tough job. And now I know the answer to the question “is this an emergency?”…

  23. E! This is terrifying! I am so glad you weren’t hurt. I hope you are feeling better.

    I shared your post with my husband, and suggested you might get a TTY phone such as used by hearing impaired persons. You were able to IM your friend – would being able to type a message to a 911 operator in an emergency help you communicate? Something to consider.

    Sending you good thoughts.

    • Thanks! Typing probably would’ve helped some, but I still had to initiate the call… once I was on the phone, I was mostly ok. Initiation is the hardest part for me. (Well, that, and being asked questions I’m not prepared for…) TTY might be something to look into… but then, I’d still have to pay for a landline, which I currently don’t do, and don’t want to do…

  24. O, E, o my goodness, how scary. I am so glad you were ok and had someone handy to text with and help you through it. I hope your roomie is home by now and you are able to get some sleep. I know it can feel hard for me, at least, to return to normal when my safe spaces have felt violated.

  25. I can only imagine the fear, though I know it’s real. I am glad for your safety; have you set forth a routine for the possibility of a future Occurance?

    • Yes, I have…Though it isn’t like I didn’t have a “known” routine for this time, too – the initiation part of the routine was the hard part

      • The difficulty, thankfully, is that one does not get practise with such routine. The lads I work with are infused with it. As I am responsible for safeguarding them now, I drill them frequently so their actions are automatic. Not something everyone needs to do . . .

  26. E., I am so glad you’re safe!! That must have been a harrowing experience! I had something similar happen to me long ago, and I still recall the terror I felt. The only “up side” of it all is that it proved to you that you can function and respond very effectively and correctly in an emergency. It was enormously hard for you to use that phone, but you did it!! You are obviously a strong young woman with powerful survival instincts.

  27. Very scary!! I’m glad you are safe. Too bad the ‘script’ of the 911 operators did not match your own script (duh- is this an emergency?? why else would you be calling???)

  28. So glad that you are safe. I’ve had a similar situation happen to me years ago when I was living in an apartment. My neighbor’s ex-boyfriend was a bit confused, but was at my apartment door and threatening me thinking it was her. He quickly figured it out and moved one door over, but I had the cops on the phone by then.

    I agree with the text-to-911 suggestions. My area has that feature now. I wish that the 911 operators could be trained better and have a bit more common sense. You’d think that if someone says “Someone tried to break into my apartment” that they could figure out that it was indeed an emergency! They shouldn’t need to ask again!

    • Wow, that’s terrifying! It’s too bad you couldn’t call the neighbor at the same time and warn her not to open the door!

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