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Have you ever been held at gunpoint?
A carefree night of teenaged fun that became terrifying in an instant.
I was 15 years old. It was the middle of the summer and hot as hell. I spent the night with my best friend Ronée, which really meant that we were running around town engaged in some kind of nonsense.
We started out meeting up with a couple of friends at Burger King (because that was our hang-out back in the day) and ended up in the back of a mini-van that belonged to the parents of our friend J who was driving. To my recollection, there were two guys that I remember and several girls, I think 6 or 7 of us total.
It was a really hot night, as most summer nights were in our bleak desert town. And after we finished eating, we decided to going to Apollo Park to skinny dip in the lake.
Apollo Park was this weird little aerospace oasis in the middle of the desert with nothing around it except a small airport. It was named after the Apollo space missions. It has several small man-made lakes and a lot of East leaning trees (from the nonstop Western blowing winds). It used to have grass and old 70’s style metal playground equipment that you’d burn your ass on during the day. It was also the home of the crowned jewel of the park, a real Apollo space capsule. It was a test module that had been dropped from a plane before the actual Apollo was first sent to space. The Apollo capsule has since been removed and restored because, as you can imagine, after nearly 50 years sitting in the desert sun and being completely open to the public (I remember climbing on it when I was a kid), it wasn’t in great shape.
People fished at Apollo park, but nobody swam or boated in it. The reason being the water is nasty. You’d never want to eat a fish from it and certainly never want to swim in it (even if it was allowed).
Since we had nothing else to do or anywhere else to go (the only others things to do in town at that point in time were to go to the movies or the mall, both of which were already closed at that time of night), so we drove out to the park in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. There was a fence, but no gate to keep us out of the parking lot, so we went straight in, but quickly decided swimming of any kind was definitely off the table after barely dipping our feet in the water and slipping on the thick slimy sludge that was the bottom of the lake (or top of the concrete depending on how you look at it).
Luckily though, the sprinklers came on at just the right time so a couple of us girls ran through the sprinklers for a while. We were having a blast, laughing hysterically, acting like total idiots and were pretty well drenched when we started getting bored and decided to go someplace else.
We left the park and drove around aimlessly for a bit. I with my shirt hanging out the window to dry and Ronée giving me dirty looks because I was topless.
There was really no one around. We didn’t see many cars at all. Somehow, we ended up at our “rival” high school though and J and the other guy, thought it would be hilarious to do donuts on the front lawn…in a minivan. I regret my part in this endeavor and would like to formally apologize to the groundskeeper who I’m sure was livid when they came in to work the next day.
After that we started driving again, then at the next stop sign, another car pulled up next to us. In true teenager fashion we thought it through thoroughly before we started egging J on to rev the engine so we could race the other car. Because racing in a minivan is a thing?
So he revved. Then they revved. Then he revved again, and they revved again. And then they took off. We started to take off (albeit much slower) and were having the best time hollering and yelling and laughing and so thrilled to be in the midst of such an intense race (that we somehow thought we could actually win). They were way ahead of us the entire time.
We turned a corner, then onto a straightaway when they suddenly swerved in front of us. J slowed down. At the stop sign, they slammed on the brakes and J followed suit. In mere seconds, three guys jumped out of the car, popped the trunk and two were at the windows of the van holding assault rifles to our heads.
We all sat in shock as one of them started yelling at J to roll down the window. J sat frozen and terrified as we all did not knowing what to say or do while the guys kept yelling. Eventually one of them looked in the back and said, “Hey man, there are chicks in here.” The other two took a better look inside and after realizing we were there put their guns down.
This is where my story ends surprisingly safely, for us anyway. It seems that these boys (I say boys because not one of them could have been older than 19) got into it with some guys in minivan that looked just like the one we were in earlier in the night and they were driving around looking for them. While they let us go without physical injury (we were all pretty traumatized) if they’d been just a little more aggressive, we could have died. All of us. And the guys that they were after, I have no idea what happened to them because all of us were too terrified to call the cops and were just relieved that they let us go. We were lucky. Incredibly lucky. But why the fuck did these kids have assault rifles to begin with?
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