A Knock at the Door

Imagine you’re sound asleep, lying next to your mother who has just come home after spending two weeks in the hospital.  You’re both in a deep sleep when you waken to the sound of loud banging.  Not just loud banging, but LOUD banging on the front door.  You jump up, look at the clock to see it’s nearly 1am and run into the hallway to see what’s going on.  Your mother slowly wakes up, too, groggy from medications and an infection in her lung that’s slowly beginning to heal.

Before I continue, please note that this is a true story.  This happened to me last week while visiting my mother in Atlanta, in the house that I grew up in.  It has taken me a week to write about the incident, but it is still very fresh in my mind and very raw. It’s a strange one and I’d love to hear your thoughts at the end about what you would done in the same situation.

There was a howling at the other side of the front door.  A wailing.  A cry.  A young girl was asking for our help. She was asking to come in, to enter our home.  She told us she wanted to go home.  She needed to make a phone call. She wanted her grandmother.

Did I mention there was a thunder storm going on?  And that Atlanta was in the midst of a tornado watch?

My heart fell and I panicked.  My mom and I looked at each other in shock and torment.  How could we leave this young girl outside in the rain?  The crying didn’t stop, and she quickly asked us to call the police.  At that moment, I sped into action, searching for a phone.  I thought, yes, the police will come quickly and help us.  I told her we would call them immediately, to hang on outside. I saw her shadow slump to the ground and her sobs bolted their way through my heart.  The only thing I could think was what if she had been raped?  What if the attacker was still outside?  What if we found her dead 10 minutes later?

But something didn’t let me open the door.  I was born and bred in Atlanta, GA and have vivid memories of Wayne Williams in the late 1970 and the Atlanta Child Murders.  I was robbed at gun point at age 19 with my mother by a man who followed us to our car after coming out of a restaurant.  My mother recently had trouble when her wallet was stolen and the thief tried to break into her house several times.  I have also lived in NYC for many years and would never open my door for anyone.  I have two children that I had to come for and a mother who I loved more than life itself.

Plus, I think that when you hear a cry that is honest and in trouble, you know.  I wasn’t sure, but I couldn’t put my life or the life of my mother in jeopardy and something about this wasn’t kosher.

I had my mom call the police back when they didn’t come in 5 minutes after the first call.  They kept us on the phone and advised me not to say anything to the girl.  The crying persisted and it felt like eternity. I paced the living room back and forth.

Finally, the police came.  The girl told them she had been kicked out of a guy’s place after being brought here from Tennessee to record an album.  She was 16 years old and he had gotten her drunk.  She said he had lied to her and told her how he was going to make her famous.  The police told her to find her phone to call her grandmother and she started to look through her bags, taking out one article of clothing at at time.  At this time, she was sitting up and was sounding more coherent. But definitely drunk.  I now looked out the window and saw that part of her blonde hair was green and that she dressed like she was trying to sell herself on the streets of Atlanta.

Finally, after spending several minutes looking for her phone to no avail, a young guy walked up from out of nowhere and handed her a cell phone.  He told the police they had been together and she had run out drunk.  She yelled at him and called him a liar, he returned the insults and they went back and forth. When curse words started to be hurtled around, the cops intervened and told him that he was in trouble.  Not only had he illegally brought a minor across state lines but he had served her alcohol.

She then hopped up, obviously not even bruised or injured, and they all got in the police cars and drove off.

We were up for hours trying to make sense of the situation.  The policemen had never knocked on our door and we didn’t want to come face to face with the intruder.  But we were left with so many questions as a result.

Was she really hurt?  Had she really been tossed on our doorstep in the midst of a thunderstorm?  Or was it a scam and they were trying to rob my poor mother or hurt us?

Apparently, someone up the street had seen the two of them driving down our road that night and had seen them stop at another house before coming to ours.  No one had come to the door.

I have no regrets for not opening the door.  I think that I would have known if she was really in trouble and clearly some of it was a hoax.  But when you are in that awful situation, it is painful and difficult.

What would you have done?


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  1. Kerri says:

    I think you made the smart decision to call the police. Especially with the way it turned out in the end. It is so hard to know when people are being honest or if it is a hoax like you said. Glad you are safe.

  2. Kristin says:

    I have a feeling that I would have opened the door and regretted it. Although I agree that when you hear truly plaintive crying – you know it. At least I hope you know it. It sounds like the man was waiting for a door to open to the young woman’s pleas, even if she wasn’t necessarily in on it. But my cynicism tells me she was.

    Terrifying either way. Well done, and I hope you’ve both recovered!

  3. Tyler Barton says:

    It is terrific that we as humans must question our every emotional response to help our counterparts. Indeed, though I am almost ashamed to reveal such a fact, I cannot bring myself to help a stranger who summons my assistance. I have known of too many perilous incidents that have occurred to family or friends whose only desire was to proffer aid to a person who begged for some asylum. In this situation I should say that you behaved in precisely the correct manner. In my case I walk throughout my city often and for considerable distances, and I fear being accosted even with a comprehensive knowledge of martial arts. I cannot fathom the fear that should haunt a potentially defenseless woman when she has her children and dear mother in her protection. You are tremendously blessed that things did not turn out worse than they did. If these vagrant bandits were possessed of any greater dedication, they might have attempted to force their way into the home. I am elated that all of you emerged unscathed.

  4. Ella says:

    I would have made the wrong choice. Even with all I know I can’t be sure I would not have answered the door, but not now. Thanks, Holly.

  5. Melissa says:

    I would have done exactly the same thing. Sad, but I would never let a stranger, especially an intoxicated stranger, into my home in the middle of the night. I am glad that you and your mother are safe. You have a good self-preservation instinct.

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