In 1983 I was at the South Suburban ice rink in Littleton, Colorado. This place became my second home. My brother was playing hockey and I would often find myself joining the other siblings who were not interested in the game. I was 5 years old and everyone was a friend. I wore a little pink knit hat with Snoopy on the front. The folks who worked there and many of the parents would call me “Togue”, a French word for a knit hat. That night was just like any other night, all of us kids asked our parents if we could go play in the warming room. Again, they all said yes, because why not? We were all family here. So with that we dashed off towards the smell of old popcorn and hot chocolate.
As we were playing a game of hide and seek, a man walked up to me where I was getting some water from the water fountain. He told me it was time to go and grabbed my hand. This person wasn’t someone I knew. He didn’t call me by my name or my nickname. Instead he took me to the maintenance closet away from the other kids.
Alone in this closet I was scared. I didn’t know what was happening since I had just turned 5. I didn’t know what he was showing me when he unzipped his pants. All I knew is that was his “private area” and that I shouldn’t be looking at that, let alone touching it.
He asked me if I promised not to say anything he would let me go. For a 5 year old I had to learn a lifetime of survival instincts in a matter of 4 minutes. If I scream he will hurt me, if I don’t respond he could hurt me. I couldn’t run because the door was closed and he was blocking it. Somehow I was able to look this monster in the eye and say something to the effect of, “I promise I won’t say a word.” When he opened the door, I ran like hell.
Several days later and after several meetings with detectives, I saw his face on the news. He had kidnapped a little girl and left her to die. It was because of Lori Poland’s courage in identifying her abductor that I was able to have closure.
What advice would you offer to encourage others?
Talk it out. Get counseling. Never, EVER stop talking about it. If someone gets uncomfortable because you talk about it, that is THEIR problem NOT yours.
- Heather Ross, Survivor
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