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The Bank Robbery~Part 3

19 May

Guest Blogger

Norma Garcia Rowe

Norma head shot

 

Suddenly the sounds of gunfire stopped, and the phone started ringing. Outside, a police officer spoke through a bullhorn, “In the bank, in the bank, answer the phone.” Next, we began to hear sounds of things breaking. We couldn’t tell exactly what it was because we were in the vault, but we thought maybe the gunman was trying to get at us. Those moments of wondering what he would do next were very frightening. Certainly, if he got to us he would be in the mood to start shooting hostages!

Later, we found out that the LAPD SWAT- team was creating a diversion by breaking two of the bank windows in the back while an officer crawled, inside a bomb shield, through the front door. The ordeal took about two hours. Finally, the SWAT team got inside the bank and realizing the hostages were shut-up in the vault and being concerned that the gunman or an accomplice might be in there with us, the officer in charge commanded, in a very loud (and frightening) voice, “I want all of you to come out one-by-one and close the door behind you.”

The girl who had been throwing up was so scared that the O. O. asked if he could come out with her. The officer in charge said, “No, Negative!” By then my legs were working again, so when my turn came I stepped out the door and, boy, what I saw scared me more than what I had gone through before. It was a bunch of heavily armed SWAT-team men some down on one knee with the rest standing behind them. All of them were aiming at ME! It was like being in front of a firing squad.

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Such a frightening moment needs a little humor

 

As we came out, our manager, who had been called from his meeting, identified us through a window. When we had all emerged, he hugged me and said, “I knew you were strong enough to handle this.” I was the only one of the girls that wasn’t crying.

They rounded us up in the back of the bank and the officer in charge said, “We are going to send you out now, but you will have to walk past a dead body.” They didn’t know who it was, but we did. I told a SWAT- team member close to me that the bank robber was not in the vault.

 

The Bank Robbery~Part 2

12 May

Guest Post

Norma Rowe

Norma head shot

 

After I heard the voice telling me to leave the vault and go into the bank lobby with the robber, I went. He had demanded that two girls go, but I was the only one who did. He didn’t ask for another one. He, instead, came with me to the teller window and told me to put money in bags. Even though he kept telling me to hurry up, I carefully included the “bait” money (marked bills). At one point I saw a small red light flashing, which indicated that the alarm had been activated. I remembered what he had said about blowing someone’s head off, so I tried to conceal the light. I failed, but fortunately he didn’t see me or the light. I then came to the vault-teller’s box, a large one, which required two different keys. I couldn’t open that one, and by then he was making me very nervous so I called to the Operations Officer to come out from the vault and open it for me. He grudgingly came and got it open but now he had to join us in filling the bags. I was toward the front of the building when I glanced up to see a police officer looking in the window. He was wearing a motorcycle helmet. Oh, good, I thought. The police are here so now we are safe.

I looked back at the thief and at that very instant he was firing at the officer. Up until that moment I had thought that maybe the gun wasn’t loaded but when I saw a flare come from the weapon, the hope of an unloaded gun vanished! My first instinct was to run toward the police officer, so I could be out of danger, but I discarded that idea thinking the guy could easily shoot me in the back. I couldn’t stay where I was, in the middle of gunfire, but if I ran toward the back of the building to join the others I had to pass him and he could easily grab me to use as a hostage. Again, something inside of me was assuring me that I could run by him and he wouldn’t grab me. I did.

As I ran back, the O.O. who had ducked behind a desk, kept yelling, “Get down, get down!” I finally ducked behind another desk but he said, “not there, here.” He wanted me where he was because it was closer to the vault, but once I hit the floor I couldn’t stand on my own two feet again. It was like that “shield,” that “armor” I had felt before, had lifted, so he stretched out his arm and I stretched out mine and he grabbed my hand and pulled me across the floor and we got on our feet to run into the vault to barricade ourselves but my legs wouldn’t support me. I was nicknamed “rubber legs” after that. One of our customers, a retired bank manager, saw what was happening and came out and helped the O. O. lift me off the floor and drag me into the vault with them. We closed the door, and barricaded it with a metal cabinet nearby.

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