Vincent Daly had a scary encounter while out with his family, and now he has a plan for safety in the face of danger.
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 had just 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 signs of 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 passed us by, he turned and threw an air punch at my head while loudly grunting “Bam!” as if his fist had connected. I recoiled back by instinct, putting up my hands (Wing Chun Kung Fu training kicking in. Thanks, SIFU!) saying, “Whoa, relax!” which was more for my benefit than his. I needed 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 could have been an extremely violent altercation. If I had 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 that 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 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 my last visit. 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 that 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?
Image: Flickr/N. Feans