My name is Kara Barragan and I’m a junior at Bonita Vista High. As a 3rd year staff member, all I can say is that this extra curricular course has brought...
My first near-death experience
September 15, 2020
My twelve-year-old brother, Will, and I were playing my favorite video game Overwatch and talking through mics on an Xbox party. Just a typical Monday during quarantine, replete with snacking, gaming and watching Smosh on Youtube (replenishing my nostalgia from watching them since sixth grade). After being queued for 10 minutes, we finally got into a match. I put the left side of my pink headphones behind my ear to hear if my seven-year-old cousin Payton, staying from Arizona, was coming into my room to ask me her endless questions as the curious child she was. Instead, I heard a car screech very close from my house.
“Kara, there was a crash,” Will said in his mic. I jumped from my creaky chair and ran out, tossing my headset on my bed. I came out of my room and saw my mom’s pale and terrified face. She hurriedly ushered us to the back corner of our living room. Time started getting faster.
My dad ran outside in front of the house to see the accident but soon ran back to our doorway when a man, carrying a gun in his right pocket, charged at him.
“Let me in,” the suspect yelled.
“Hell no,” my dad said just before he slammed the door right in his face.
My mom was screaming for us to get down. My dad locked the door and ran over to us, checking the scene in a protecting manner, telling us what to do.
Gunshots. And they were multiplying.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Before I got to crouch in a corner, I peeked and saw from the front window a police officer holding his gun towards the suspect.
Will, my brother Michael, my old golden retriever Cha Chi, my mom and I were crammed in the corner with our heads ducked, holding tightly to whatever limb we could hold. We were shaking at the foot of our deathbeds. My chest was tightening from my anxiety and a panic attack commenced in seconds. I was sobbing and my throat felt like it was pinned down by bodies of concrete. I was holding on to Michael’s ankle with my other arm covering Will and Cha Chi. I looked through the glass door beside us and saw my grandpa in the distance, running through the side of the house not knowing that gunshots were coming his way.
My mom stood and opened the glass door with my dad yelling her not to — telling my grandpa to get in his house just in time. She saved his life then and there and she didn’t even know it.
“Move to the TV, go!” my dad yelled at us. I dragged my knees against the carpet and crawled away quickly from the corner of the glass door to the backyard where we were bunched up. My dad knew to move us away from that area if the suspect were to charge into our backyard and see us through the door. My knees bled and began to drip to my ankles. My whole body shook uncontrollably. Was this how me and my family’s lives were going to end? I held tight to my brothers with my eyes aggressively shut. I couldn’t comprehend how literal the situation was. My life could end in the blink of an eye with the pull of the suspect’s trigger.
The gunshots felt never-ending.
“Move to Kara’s room, go!” my dad yelled.
I jumped over the small table in our living room and my brothers ran behind me. Thankfully my room was clean that day. My dad stayed out in the living room and the rest of us bunched in the corner of my room, hiding behind my closet wall. We didn’t know where Cha Chi, Payton or my grandma were at the time. My fear for all of our lives grew stronger.
“Lay flat, lay flat,” my Mom yelled to us. My cries and moans grew louder. I couldn’t bring myself to hush and act dead. When my mom told us to lay flat, I thought the suspect was in the house. ‘Please God, please God, not today’, I repeated in my head. I held on Michael’s ankle and Will’s small wrist. I shook and heard a woman’s voice from my Mom’s phone. The 911 operator was on the call the whole time.
“Text Julie,” my Mom said hurriedly.
With blurred vision, I texted my sister, ‘Don’t come home. They’re shooting at the house. Please be safe’. I began to cry more, imagining if Julie got off early and rode her longboard back home. I couldn’t fathom it.
“You can comfort her,” the operator reiterated to my Mom.
My mom frowned and began to rub my back. I let go of Michael’s ankle and held my Mom’s arm.
The pops stopped. Relief still couldn’t overcome me; ‘what ifs’ filled my head instead.
My mom got up and left the room. I picked my face up from the ground and sat with my legs crossed. I put my head in my hands, feeling the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life.
A fugitive task force member walked through the hallway to my room, making sure it was just me and the rest of my brothers in the back of the house. He checked if we were all okay.
I finally stood — my body feeling extremely light — but my head feeling so heavy.
My mom stood in the hallway, crying on the phone. My brother Michael was quiet — and it’s very rare to see him show emotion. My heart shattered with all that was left of it when Michael stood and hugged my mom. I sat on my bed and sobbed as I ran my thumb back and forth on Will’s ankle. He was sitting at my desk just in front of me, his head in his hands crying as well.
Payton and my grandma came into my room. Payton ran in my arms and sobbed. I held her extremely tight, feeling so much guilt that the innocent minds of Will and Payton had to experience something like this. I repeatedly apologized to her and she reassured me that it wasn’t my fault.
She couldn’t understand.
“I’m glad that we’re all alive and safe,” she said with her head rested on my shoulder.
I held her tighter and cried loudly.
Why do people have to be so cruel?
It’s been about two months since this all happened. Since then, I’ve had my first ever therapy session. I’ve been having nightmares every other night, but they’ve been less frequent since the situation first occurred. I told my therapist how one night before I fell asleep, a blaring sound of a gunshot rang in my head. She told me it was normal to hear flashbacks of an event like that. I felt comfortable knowing they weren’t out of the ordinary for victims of trauma like myself.
I told her whenever I hear the smallest of noises or my dogs barking from outside of my window, I’m the first to spring up and investigate. I’ve always been over-protective with my family, but the incident made me more protective and quick to react.
I told her more how I’m always the last to go to bed in my house; I’m now the one who locks every door, takes the dogs in, closes every curtain and shuts the lights off before bed.
After my first therapy session, my therapist told me that I’m facing Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I wasn’t surprised.
I go through the breathing exercises my therapist taught me and pray every night now. I’ve never been super religious, but I needed some hope in my life. I used to pray when I was younger with my mom during times when I was feeling lost, so I felt now was the time I’d start again. God feels like an orb of protection to me and it’s the best thing to have when suffering from PTSD; I no longer feel lonely at night where the world is quiet and all I have are my thoughts.
My eyes are pouring with tears as I recall the events to write them out. I’ve realized that I feel closer to my family more than ever now.
I no longer take my mom for granted. I make time out of my busy days of school to play a few rounds of Super Smash Bros Ultimate and watch YouTube videos with Will. I randomly open the room to Michael’s room to show him a funny Tik Tok or just tease him to show that I’m here for him, even if he can’t bring himself to open up to me. I help my dad with his daily Instagram stories of his delicious meals, taking photos and videos for him whenever I’m free. And I continue to take care of my dogs and give them hugs and kisses, especially when Cha Chi gets scared from our doorbell or loud cars driving past. I make sure to hold her and reassure her that she’s okay.
Even though I face PTSD from this event, I keep moving forward and growing. There’s times that I wake in the middle of the night from nightmares, but I reassure myself I’ll be okay.
The event was so rare to happen near my home around Eastlake, so I just have to know I will be okay.
I’m beyond grateful that my family and I are still alive. It’s hard to comprehend how life is so precious, but I will never take my life for granted ever again.
Life is everything. I’d be nothing without it.