Norma Garcia Rowe
Norma is our newest guest blogger. She has an amazing story to share and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. Be sure to take a look at her bio in the menu above~Onisha
My name is Norma Garcia Rowe. I was born and raised in Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1964.
On May 17, 1972, the bank where I worked was held up. It was mid-morning, right after we opened. I was on the telephone with a client when I noticed the Assistant Manager, waving at me trying to tell me to get off the phone. He was standing near a clean-cut man who wore a sport coat and a narrow brimmed hat. At first I didn’t know what he wanted, but then I saw that the man was holding a gun against his chest so that none of the others tellers or the customers could see it. I learned later it was a 45-caliber handgun. I immediately dropped the phone into the cradle and got up to join the others.
Apparently, he had been waiting for me to get off the phone so that I couldn’t alert anyone because the minute I hung up he led us all, employees, and customers, to the back of the building where the vault was located. He was walking on the lobby side, and we were walking on the inside of the counter. I remember pressing the silent alarm when the man wasn’t looking in my direction. It was then that he yelled out, “If anyone presses the alarm I’ll blow your head off.” Well, too late – everybody had done it by then. The alarm went directly to the police department and to the bank’s Loss and Investigations Department, which worked in conjunction with LAPD. He got all sixteen of us huddled up in the vault. Back then, there were no computers. Records were kept in files and those files were put in boxes so, this vault was nothing but a storage room and it couldn’t have been much bigger than 12’x12’. There were shelves, wide enough to store those boxes, from floor to ceiling against three walls and back-to-back in the middle of the room, serving as a partition, leaving one aisle on each side. We kept most of the money in a metal cabinet by the door.
Of course, the man didn’t know that, so he kept saying, “Two of the girls that work here go out and collect all the money and put it in bags.” No one moved. We were all afraid for our lives. I hid behind a tall young man that worked as a part-time teller hoping he would shield me if the guy decided to start shooting.
I was one of the girls throw up in a wastebasket. I also remember that one of them was in such state of fear that she climbed up on a shelf and lay there, shaking all over, her eyes open almost to the point of bulging. I was scared too but felt so bad for her that I remember whispering, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be all right.”
The robber kept repeating, “Two girls go get the money” The least of my intentions at that time was to be one of those girls but then something unexpected happened.
Suddenly, I heard an audible voice. I didn’t hear it with my ears, but somewhere in my forehead. It was a commanding voice, saying, “You go, nothing is going to happen to you.”
At that moment, I felt strong and fearless. Taking a step forward I said, “I’ll go.” It was as if suddenly I had been vested with armor or a shield and I knew that truly, nothing was going to happen to me.