It was a bright sunny day, April 202010, a day that will remain unforgettable to all those who were in Los Angeles. I was with my father and mother when we entered Wilshire State Bank to deposit my school fees. Our School was scheduled to open in the coming week and so early payment meant that my processing details would be easier. As we entered the bank, we met a guard at the gate who greeted us with a smile with his face booming with good fellowship. I had all along enjoyed my stay at home, and the thought of going back to school sickened me. The idea that I would leave this beloved place called home brought tears to my eyes.
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We went straight to the lift and I saw my father signaling to my mum that he will be back in a while. So we had to wait for some time for him to return. Another guard who was patrolling the premise told us to help ourselves by sitting at the nearby platform. I gazed at him and felt safe. He was as strong as an ox - an indication that nothing wrong could happen. As we sat waiting for my father, an old woman came and sat next to us. As I was to learn later, she was inquiring about the pension of her late son who had been killed by gangsters. She looked tired and I saw pain under the thin veil of her dry wrinkled skin.
My mother was busy with the local daily, and I was gesturing to and from where we sat. There were rivers of people at the bank, some queuing to be attended to while others rushing out after accomplishing their mission. I always sense trouble, but on this particular day, my thoughts were lost to the magnificent decoration in the building. I remember one banner that was as bright as a button and which read ‘How to work smart with Wilshire State Bank,’ and I imagined that I workone day in such an environment. My mother sat at the couch, still as stone, not bothered with what was going on around the bank. I noticed she was still as stone and busy reading through the lines of the daily.
Suddenly, I noticed three people enter the bank, two of whom were wearing leather jackets and one a sweater. Though I did not sense anything fishy from these men, I noticed they were as happy as a rat with a gold tooth. It seemed this was going to be their day. One of them, who had a sweater on, went straight to the queuing line, another one to the nearby seats, while the third one was busy talking to another guard, maybe inquiring about the bank.
The man in sweater looked at the positions of his friends, one of whom had already moved closer to the main entrance. Suddenly, in a click of time, I heard a gun shoot and the next thing I saw is that we were all lying on the floor. My heart started beating as fast as a race car. One of the three men talked in a low gravel voice stating that anyone who wanted to meet his death should dare stand up. As one of the thugs collected all the valuables people had in their pockets and handbags, the other at the gate was composed smiling in a what–a-lucky-day-it–was way.
All this happened within a fraction of a minute and we were all dead silent, hoping that we were not to meet our maker then. All the money we were to deposit was with my mum in her handbag while my dad had gone to fill some bank foams upstairs. One of the guards made a phone call in which I realized that some of them were outside. It was a terrifying moment for us all. As soon as they were done with their Sunday collection, they made their way out only to realize that the police were already on their way. As we remained lying on the floor, we had gunshots outside and one of them came running in.
He held a gun in his hand and as he stood there, waiting with anxious eyes, he pointed at the old woman and told her to come forward. They were going to use her as a hostage. The woman resisted but she was overwhelmed by anger of the man, who grabbed her by the hand and slapped her. It was terrible to watch an old woman being sandwiched like bread and butter. I noticed three of those who were outside come back in and headed to the door behind. The police had formed a mesh of security outside, and it was going to be hard for them to escape.
As they ran to the door behind, two of them were gunned down and fell down, silent as grave. The others managed to escape, having made the old woman come through a torturous experience. I have never witnessed a scene of shooting before. I wondered why such young men could misuse their life, which was as delicate as flower for robbery. The police came in handy and asked if anyone had been hurt. Only the old woman had bruises in her face while the rest of us were fine. My dad too had been trapped upstairs and was safe. We went back home having watched a terrifying scene, which remained engraved in my mind for quite a while.