Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Before and After

Certain events in our life leave an indelible impression. The sort of events and experiences that feel like everything else, maybe if just for the present time, is defined in terms of “before X and after X.”

October 20, 2006 was definitely a before and after. I’m not a parent yet, but I imagine the first kiddo leaves a certain impression.

When I realize where I’m going with this train of thought, it seems almost irreverent to combine weddings and precious new life with what happened. But for me, the last two weeks have been defined by “before October 12 at 10:07” and “after October 12 at 10:07” – for good or for bad, and I’m finding the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

I was slightly uneasy as I exited the subway station near our place. Noah and I are constantly together, almost to a comical point, so the otherwise two short blocks felt strangely exposed without him by my side. I kept a definitive pace toward our building, noting individuals who passed and keeping careful watch of the empty sidewalk that trailed behind my stride. I rang Noah in the apartment, and just as I did, a man stepped in off the sidewalk and joined me in the vestibule. Immediately, I felt uncomfortable. And though it can be potentially unpleasant to ask a neighbor if they actually live in the building, I asked. In the split second before the beeping gave away the unlocked door he responded in the affirmative and we made our way into the foyer.

Still unsure of his presence, I glanced over my shoulder a few times, wondering if he seemed to have a destination – a first floor apartment? The stairs? And though I rarely opt for the elevator, I found myself walking toward it as he asked if I needed help with my bags.

“Oh, they’re really not heavy – thanks. Have a nice night.”

I guess subconsciously, I hoped my dismissive response would mark the end of this uncomfortable exchange. But as I called the elevator, he made his way toward the elevator to wait with me. I dug for my phone, dialing Noah to chat during the six floor summit – we wouldn’t have had much to say, I just wanted this guy to know someone was expecting me in about 45 seconds. Someone tough. And huge. And mean :).

The elevator approached, the man held open the door and rather than lingering for the phone to connect, I stepped into the elevator. Before I could turn to hit the 6, I felt two arms reach around me, pinning my arms against my side and pulling the ringing phone away from my ear. I didn’t know if it had connected, but I knew if it did connect, I’d better start screaming for all I had. I screamed until he yelled at me to stop and adjusted his grip from my shoulders to my throat. At first I panicked, my adrenaline begging me to thrash and fight, get air and get away. But in that moment, I had the most overwhelming impression to just calm down and everything would be all right.

I came to on the floor of the elevator – but without peripheral vision, it took a few moments to recognize the scene, much less remember the role I had played. I focused on my feet first and in the otherwise eerie silence, heard the shuffling of someone still in close proximity. I noticed my bags strewn about, the glossy tan paint of the cold metal walls. I stood, still foggy and grasping for periphery when he backed out of the elevator. I know we were facing each other because our last exchange consisted of my reaching desperately for the phone I saw at my feet and his demanding I give it to him.

I committed the 3 on the placard outside the elevator door to memory, and took some comfort in the fact even an old, slow elevator couldn’t take more than 30 seconds to climb two stories. Still shaky and confused, I pounded the 6, pushed my way out of the elevator, rang our bell furiously and found myself telling my sweetheart with more composure than I think I actually had, “I was just mugged in the elevator…”

We rode in the back of the police car to the precinct, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for “anyone who may look like him.” But when black puffy coats and dark baseball caps are practically dress code in the neighborhood, it’s downright overwhelming.

I tried my best to keep my composure until Noah and I ascended the stairs back to our apartment 2.5 hours later. Sheer exhaustion combined with raw emotion as I eyed the 3 on the placard and it sent me into what started as a whimper and quickly escalated into heaving sobs by the time we reached our place.

Noah was my rock.

The next few hours were some of the most memorable I’ve shared with my sweetheart in the time I’ve called him “my sweetheart.” I married an angel. Some is too personal to share through this medium, but we were so closely aligned with what we needed, what we wanted, what we prayed for and what we knew our Heavenly Father was capable of blessing us with.

We knew we stood at a bit of a crossroads. This guy had done what he came in the building to do, and now he was where? Probably not thinking about this the same way we were. Probably not replaying it and wondering what could have gone differently. He had a handful of cancelled credit cards and some M.A.C. eyeshadow and we had an emotional recovery staring us squarely in the face.

Noah embraced me as I asked questions, came to realizations, talked about what I was feeling and thinking and wondering at every 10 minute interval. I felt so empowered as I allowed myself not to dwell on what could have been different, but instead on what I did right. And I felt so, so acutely the perfect love of a Father in Heaven who watched over me, protected me and saw me home to my sweetheart.

After many tearful, grateful prayers we climbed in bed still unable to summon sleep. Noah suggested we listen to General Conference that had been broadcast to the members of our church one week prior. We selected the Sunday morning session and tears streamed down my face as I listened to the powerful message in the opening hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and listened to a beautiful invocation requesting Balm of Gilead for those who were in need – supplication offered on behalf of millions listening and watching one week previous and now, meant just for us in a dark bedroom in Harlem. I slipped in and out of fitful sleep and could sense Noah doing the same. But at one point, I awoke to hear just a few sentences from Bishop H. David Burton about acts of violence in our communities. I probably took his words of context in my half-awake state, but my interpretation in that moment was one of understanding, one of our natural, God-given capacity for integrity, charity, love and respect, the thought that the man in the elevator was also a son of our Heavenly Father and that He knew what I was going through.

In the days that followed, I felt so powerfully the blessings afforded Noah and me in this healing process. The very fact we work together, probably a short blip on the broader landscape of our eventual jobs and careers, meant I could literally stay within arm’s length of him until I was comfortable enough to be alone. We were able to spend time together in the temple – if there’s ever a place to sob uncontrollably for no apparent reason and just get consoling hugs from sweet old ladies, the temple is that place. The promises and the blessings received in His house always overwhelm me in even my most settled state, and to feel and try to comprehend those blessings in this context was more than I can express. Our incredible families, scattered literally across the globe – we felt so close to them through their prayers and fasting on our behalf. Our truly wonderful friends – within hours of word making the rounds, we had doors and homes opened to us, listening ears, and even more prayers and thoughts on our behalf. Our sweet neighbors, two men who’ve befriended and embraced the Rileys and wish us a good day each morning as we pass – after Noah shared what happened, we’ve come home each evening to their genuine concern wanting to know why we’re so late :). Even strangers, as people I don’t know have passed along their well wishes through mutual acquaintances, it’s impossible not to feel a support system like the one we’ve felt.

As I spoke with a dear friend last night, I recalled what an experience this has been – but that for the truly awful 1.5 minutes, and not so great next few hours, the days and now even weeks that have followed have been full of lessons and realizations and confirmation of God’s love for me. If I wouldn’t allow myself to feel this love and remember the supreme gift of Christ’s atonement – then it was just an awful experience.

I doubt I’ll forget October 12 at 10:07pm, but there is so much “after” that I hope I never do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I was at the AT&T store this morning trying to activate a new phone on our line and the customer service representative asked for my driver's license.

I didn't have it.

Work I.D.? Anything with a photo?


"But I can call my husband! He's just right above ground in his office and I know he'll run down."

As I waited on the folding chairs, thumbing through the latest issue of AT&T Magazine, it became abundantly clear - I need this guy.

Here's to three years.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sutherlands in the City

Noah's favorite thing about working at insurance (while I worked at agency and Buster went to Army) was his coworkers, particularly the one who would have caught this obscure reference to canceled TV shows because he's the one who coined it.
Spencer and Traci came to NYC last week and I hesitate to recount the weekend, because Spencer tells it a lot better than I do. Truly, I'm trying to add a sentence here or there but I'm not really doing it justice.

But we did love the perfect weather they ordered for our Saturday tours of Brooklyn, Little Italy, SoHo, the Meatpacking District, the Flatiron District and Junior's Cheesecake selection.

It was also nice to snap a few photos at some of our favorite city spots. For as often as we walk by these places, we almost never take pictures or don't feel like asking a stranger when we know we'll be back.

Or we do ask a stranger, but then I don't feel comfortable saying, "would you retake this? My butt looks big." Ah, to sight-see with friends.

It's a shame we didn't think to snap the group photo until Sunday when it was rougly 3,000 percent humidity out there and my hair was so over it. Don't be fooled just because everyone else looks good on this stroll through Central Pak... dang you, Traci and those cute curls.
And for good measure, a devastatingly handsome picture of Noah in Brooklyn in case any long-lost friends from high school are reading...
Tell me about it. What a hunk.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Spoke Way, Way Too Soon...

Noah was in charge of media relations last night for an event at a hotel on the edge of Central Park. So after work, I got all gussied up (read: I tried to hide the flu. It wasn't pretty.) and scurried north for 14 blocks to meet up with him.

A firm believer in geometric principles, I created the shortest distance between two points by cutting through Rockefeller Plaza, where duh - namesake - perhaps I should have expected to see Alec Baldwin shooting a scene for 30 Rock?!

So if there's an episode where Jack's sitting on a bench on the plaza, think of me and watch for my red coat. I'll probably be walking like I kind of have the flu, but just saw Alec Baldwin.