It wasn’t unusual for tools and even bicycles to go missing from our back porch in NoDa. For years, someone stole potted plants and outdoor furniture from front porches in NoDa and Plaza Midwood. It was a nuisance, and either neighbors kept the porch clear of items or bolted them down.
One November afternoon in 2012, I came home from visiting a friend. The kids were at school. I noticed the back door to our house was open. I thought my husband had left the door open by accident, which wasn’t uncommon.
I’ve lived in NoDa for 20 years. I’ve loved and will always love my neighborhood because of the people, the older homes and tree-lined streets. I wouldn’t expect anything bad to happen here to my family. But when I saw the broken glass, I knew something was wrong.
Someone had used a wrench to break the glass in the French door, reach in and turn the lock. The wrench was left a few feet inside the house.
I didn’t go in, but ran to a neighbor’s house for help. Andy was brand new to the neighborhood, and we hadn’t met yet. It was an unexpected way to meet. I was an emotional wreck — flipping between angry, sad and scared. I called the police. Andy sat with me on the front porch until the police came.
Andy had seen someone run in between our houses carrying something, but didn’t call the police. Another neighbor had seen a strange car parked in our driveway, but also hadn’t called the police.
Every drawer, cabinet and room had been rifled. They took several thousands of dollars worth of laptops, jewelry and cash. Prescription medicines were thrown around, but none taken – I guess our drugs didn’t have any street worth.
Our boys’ rooms were searched and all three of their personalized ceramic piggy banks were taken. I assumed the burglars wrapped them in the handmade blanket given to us when we went on the Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids Disney Trip. It had no monetary worth, just tremendous sentimental value.
My dad had given my mom a beautiful and unique amethyst ring the night before they married. I’d coveted that ring for decades and my mom finally gave it to me a few months before the break-in.
It was gone.
Our TV was askew. It was mounted on the wall and proved to be the one thing we did right when it comes to foiling a burglar’s plans.
The police came; a detective looked around. My husband and a friend fixed the glass in the door. We worked fast to clean up the mess before the kids came home from school. We decided not to tell our boys what happened. At the time, they were 9, 7 and 5.
Six years later, I still stand by that decision. There was no reason to break their feeling of safety and security. They were young enough to believe my story about their piggy banks needing updating.
Our insurance company requested a list of every item stolen and its approximate replacement value. Even after I turned in the list, I kept realizing that other items were missing and go through the cycle of anger and sadness again. The insurance company made it easy for us to purchase new items.
We installed an alarm system immediately. We used a local company called Alarm Sound. We changed the turn lock in the French doors to a keyed lock and added extra locks to the windows. Although the break-in was during the day, we put more flood lights on the outside of our house.
I purchased a special bar that fit under the doorknob because I was convinced someone was going to kick open the front door. The bar was a bit much, but my husband appeased me by setting it in place and going out the back door. We used that for a few weeks until my anxiety settled down.
The lost ring distressed me. I asked a friend to help me look for the ring at area pawn shops. She knew it was a lost cause, but never said so. Going to the shops and looking for my ring was part of my therapy. I did this for several weeks, but never found it. I still wonder who’s wearing the ring.
Six years later and I always hide my laptop when I leave the house. My kids do the same because I’ve used a “what if someone were to break in” scenario.
We always set the alarm. A part of me expects to see broken glass or an open door when I arrive home by myself. My feelings of insecurity and violation have lessened but haven’t disappeared.
But the burglary didn’t make me question our decision to live in NoDa. It was actually a sign that the neighborhood was becoming more affluent. For the first ten years we lived in NoDa, none of the residents had anything worth stealing, including us.
A burglary can happen in any neighborhood. If we fled NoDa, we’d be fooling ourselves to believe we’d be exempt from another burglary. We stayed here because NoDa is our home. When I pass by the Neighborhood Theatre for the thousandth time or grab a drink at Smelly Cat, I love that familiar feeling. Businesses and neighbors may change, but I can count on a certain vibe — mixed with new people and ideas.
We’re here to stay.
Photo: James Willamor/Flickr