104: Miracle on Michigan Avenue

104: Miracle on Michigan Avenue

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Miracle on Michigan Avenue

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

~Søren Kierkegaard

I am paralyzed, too terrified to move. As he screams horrible obscenities, he rockets around the room. Hopeful, my eyes seek the telephone, but he grabs it and rips the cord from the wall. My poor baby, fastened in her stroller, shrieks in terror—scared by the noise. I have to protect her. In his fury, he kicks the desk chair, hurtling it against the wall. What if our assailant kicks my seven-month-old baby? I can’t escape. Poor Mary and her stroller are between him and me. How can I get both of us out of here? Like cornered rats, my thoughts keep climbing on top of each other.

I should scream. But no one would hear me in this high-rise Chicago hotel. The windows are sealed. Since it is mid-afternoon, the housekeeper, businessmen and other guests have left the floor. I scold myself for being so naïve as to answer and unlock the door. I thought my relatives were arriving early. Instead, this drug-crazed mugger shoved his way in. Who can protect us? I feel totally helpless.

Earlier, I’d been visiting my mother, a patient at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a few blocks from our Michigan Avenue hotel. Pushing my baby in her stroller back to the hotel, I struggled to steer it against Lake Michigan’s strong, wintery winds. Focusing on the weaving stroller, I didn’t notice someone following us.

But then we arrived in our room, and he appeared from nowhere, smelling of a sweaty, desperate rage. Now, I wonder if we’ll die.

I pray, “Dear Lord, you gave me this gorgeous baby when the doctor thought I would miscarry. Please protect her now. Tell me what to do.” Almost immediately, I feel less frightened.

What I hear is a strong, reassuring voice saying, “Talk—tell him why you’re here.” Although the answer seems strange, I begin talking in a high voice.

Ignoring my words, my assailant grabs at me, ripping my blouse, as he yells above my baby’s cries. All I can see is his pock-marked face leering at me while his foul breath makes me want to vomit. Still, I’m grateful he is concentrating on me and not my poor child. As long as he doesn’t hurt her, I don’t care what happens to me. Again I hear the voice, “I’m here to protect you. You do matter. Keep talking.”

I talk, but my attacker doesn’t seem to hear anything I say, as he keeps bellowing. I want to grab my baby and run. I want to escape to our Oregon home where my strong husband and wonderful teenage daughters wait for us, but we can’t leave. He has us trapped.

“Please, please listen. We’re here because my mother is in the hospital. She’s very sick. She needs an operation, but they don’t know if they can operate. Her heart is so bad.” I keep repeating the same words. My head is pounding, and I gasp for breath as the words gush out. Words I can’t hear because of his wild ranting. I keep praying for help. Even though I’m terrified, I feel a calm stillness separating me from his craziness.

He stops yelling. His thin, dark body ceases gyrating in its drug-induced state. Late afternoon sunlight, filtered by heavy hotel curtains, catches in his single earring. Then, for a brief instant, his yellow, bloodshot eyes stop darting and see mine. The tiny contact gives me hope.

“Please,” I beg. “Don’t hurt my baby. She is so scared.” I keep pleading with him, trying to calm his rage.

Finally, whirling away from me, he suddenly, angrily demands money. I am struck by the coherence of his words, his first intelligible sounds.

“Sure, anything.” I grab my billfold on the dresser and give him all I have—forty dollars.

Before he leaves, he says, “If you open the door, I’ll kill you.” Then, he slams the door. Quickly, I lock it and open the door to my father’s adjacent room. Even though my father is still at the hospital, I can use his phone, calling the front desk and asking them to notify the police. While I wait, hugging and soothing my baby, I thank God for His strength and guidance. Without His wise advice, something awful could have happened.

The following day, I identify my attacker by his unusual earring at a Chicago police station line-up. I’m told he has been stalking and raping out-of-town visitors (believing they would soon leave the city and be unavailable to identify him). The police had been staking out my hotel, which was why they caught him so quickly. When the concerned detective asked how I escaped being raped, I told him I just prayed and was told to talk to my attacker. Further, I explain I was afraid to fight for fear my baby would be hurt. He tells me I did the right thing by making a connection with the perpetrator—helping him see us as human beings and not as objects.

Since I don’t want my assailant to hurt other women, I testify at a judge’s preliminary hearing. When I call my worried husband in Oregon, his reassuring support comforts me. Fortunately, I don’t have to return for my attacker’s trial. Other witnesses provide convincing evidence, and he is convicted.

When I return home to Oregon and my Christian Family Class, I tell Sister about our miracle. “God calmed my fears, instilled courage and helped me concentrate on what to do. The same day, police just happened to be staking out our hotel and were able to capture my would-be rapist.” Sister nods wisely, as she hugs my precious baby, whose beautiful, almond eyes smile at us. Then, Sister whispers, almost like a benediction, “God will always protect us, if we just ask Him.”

~Carol Strazer

More stories from our partners