Norma Garcia Rowe
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.
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.