Friday, December 11, 2009

6:58 am: Not for the Faint of Heart

Plans for this weekend:
1. Go to Christmas tree farm. Sing Fa-ra-ra-ra-rah while selecting the most perfect tree.
2. Go to Starbucks. Purchase 2 tall apple caramel spice drinks.
3. Decorate tree. Watch "Christmas Carol" for 438th time.
4. Assemble nursery furniture. Decorate Nolan's room to hearts desire.
5. Attend Chris' work Christmas party. Wear new boots. Drink sparkling grape juice.
6. Worship with hundreds of 12 Stoners. Rock babies in nursery.

A weekend so happy and normal you'd almost never know that our lives were completely changed at 6:58 am this past Monday morning.

I have decided to blog about something. Something so horrific and serious that part of me shudders at the very thought of being open with the intimate details of this week. The other part of me knows that I absolutely need to share this story. I share it not asking for sympathy or comments or friendly gasps of horror. I share it because I want people to know just how sovereign our God truly is and just how much he's sees us through life's absolute trials.

As a disclaimer, if you would prefer not to go any further or to expose yourself to our story, please stop reading now. I apologize in advance for the shock this post will possibly bring about. Here goes...

Last weekend we spent time down with my family at Callaway Gardens. It was the most fabulous weekend. We ate yummy dinner, shopped in the Christmas Village, and rode the Santa Trolley pulled by a fictional horse named Snowflake. We sang Christmas carols and drank hot chocolate. We drove home, went to church Sunday morning, lunch Sunday afternoon, and I shopped the afternoon away while Chris lounged and caught up on all of his favorite TV shows.

Sunday night I got my toes done (yay!), went to dinner, and shopped the late night sale at Macy's to buy Chris a new outfit for his upcoming business trip to Phoenix. Chris went to his piano lesson and dinner with his scuba diving instructor. We met back at home late Sunday night, packed Chris up for his business trip, kissed each other goodnight, and said our prayers.

Chris left the house for the airport at 5am Monday morning. I groggily kissed him goodbye, marveled at how good he looked in his new button down, and sent him on his way.

At 6:58 am, as I was drying my hair, I saw the light on my cell phone light up. Assuming it was the normal "I'm on the plane. Taking off. Love you!" text message, I continued drying my hair. About 2 minutes later I put down the blow dryer and went over to see the ever familiar words so I could rest easy that all was well.

Rest easy was not what happened in the least.

I opened my phone to see the words: "Been arrested".

Oh, I thought. Okie dokie. Back to drying my hair I went. About 3 seconds later I went through the roof, landed in the fetal position and began panicking in a way that I have never quite had to panic.

"Been arrested"??!?! What in the world!? A million things began racing through my mind. Did we forget to renew our tags and he get pulled over on the way to the airport?? Did he unknowingly cause and accident on 85 and get arrested for leaving the scene?? Did he cut off the wrong person and end up getting in a bout of road rage??

No. He did not.

What he did do was: wake up Monday morning, grab red rolling Samsonite travel suitcase, hop in car, drive to airport, park car, grab North Face book bag from backseat to use as carry on, and frolicked right into Hartsfield-Jackson airport. He be-bopped his way to security, got in line with 2 other men (1 military, 1 businessman), and slid his bags onto the conveyor belt. The men all removed their shoes and belts, placed them on the line, and glanced up at the x-ray machine. Chris immediately noticed that someone had brought a gun in their bag. He turned to the military guy behind him and said "Man, you know you can't bring guns into the airport!". Military man clarified that is wasn't his. Businessman clarified that it wasn't his. Chris obtains his shoes and belt, begins to put them on, grabs the old Samsonite, and begins to look for his Northface bag.

When his eyes find it, they also find federal agents, APD officers, and TSA agents.

I can't even begin to imagine the feeling that settled into the pit of his stomach. He instantly remembered that inside his book bag (which had been inside his car all weekend) was: one HP computer, one Alfred Dunner Piano Christmas Book, and one 9 millimeter glock handgun.

Insert gasping, horror, and a million other negative thoughts.

He immediately raised his hand and said "That's my bag. Inside it is a computer, a piano book, and a glock handgun. I had NO idea it was in there and I am SO sorry".

There was no scene. No handcuffing. No slamming of Chris on the hard airport floor. No code orange overhead announcement.

They quietly told him that they needed to open his book bag and that he needed to witness them removing the contents. He repeatedly apologized and attempted to explain the unfortunate accident that just unfolded. The calmness of the situation led him to believe they were going to confiscate the gun and go from there.

Then they led him into a secure area. And arrested him. And charged him with carrying a concealed weapon.

Because the incident took place in the airport, the feds temporarily turn over jurisdiction to the Clayton County Police. Chris was placed in a patrol car and transported to the Clayton County Jail. On the way, he was told that he was charged with a misdemeanor and that his bond was set at $5700.00. The compassionate officer who was transporting him allowed him to send me a text message.

Mind you, I knew NONE (and I mean NONE) of these details at the time. All I knew was that something horrible had happened and that I needed our families ASAP. All of whom came flying up to get me (I had managed to make it to work by this time only to flail about and grow increasingly inconsolable). Chris' mom came and found me and we high-tailed it to Clayton County to "solve" the situation.

We arrived and were told that Chris' bond had been set. In the short time it took for me to panic at the thought of coming up with $5700 dollars and walking into the jail, Clayton County withdrew the bond and booked Chris as a felon with no bail.

Upon realizing that the crime had taken place in the airport, where there is an absolute ZERO tolerance rule (as there very well should be), the nature of the incident turned instantly a gazillion times more serious.

I asked to see Chris. The answer was absolutely not. I asked to talk to him. The answer was absolutely not. He was being booked with other felons and was not privy to anything at this point. No bond. No phone call. No nothin'.

So I did what any good wife would do, and called his boss. His relatively new boss. The boss of his amazingly wonderful new job.

Afterall, he needed to know that Chris was not on that plane and would not be making his trip. His boss immediately clued me in to the fact that I needed an attorney, and I needed an attorney who could rectify the situation STAT.

I called a dozen of our close friends, most old rugby guys from Georgia who have gone into law post glory days. None are criminal attorneys. I began collecting referrals like I collect Willow Tree Angels. I started calling but was so hysterical that I could not even make out the words to the story. No one wanted to take the case. I was reminded of the seriousness of the crime and was advised that I needed an attorney with expertise in this area of law.
Unfortunately, my hot pink Rolodex did not contain a phone number to an attorney who specializes in felonies.

I was stumped.

I called Chris' boss and asked him to call the contact person at Glock (the handgun company). Being a potential client of Chris' company, this was a gamble. My thinking was "who better to advise us than a gun company!?" I'm sure his boss' thought was "why involve a potential client in something this serious???"

Within 10 minutes I had the phone number of Glock's ex-attorney in my hands. A God send. He was motivated to take the case and was immediately available to advise me further.

Our phone call went something like this: 1) Chris is not entitled to an attorney at this stage in the game. 2) Chris is not entitled to a bond. 3) Chris needs a bond hearing. 4) If Chris goes before the right judge, a bond may be set. 5) The bond will most likely have restrictions set with it (i.e. no travel, etc.)--these restrictions greatly impact his ability to continue working 6) I need to be prepared for the bond to be anywhere from $50,000-$100,000. 7) In order to retain Mr. Glock I needed $4000.

At this point I threw up in my mouth. I mean, what else do you do? I assessed our financial situation; realized that short of selling our first born child (who I realized I was carrying throughout this entire ordeal), there was no way humanly possible that I could meet these requirements. I said I could anyway and realized that my faith is a lot bigger than my reality.

A bond hearing was set for Tuesday afternoon at 1:30pm. Between Monday morning and Tuesday morning I sat with our moms, crying uncontrollably, and staring at the phone hoping that I would at least be able to talk to my beloved husband.

My cellphone rang. "This is a collect call from an inmate at the Clayton County Jail. Press one to accept charges."

Pound key pad with all my might.

"I'm sorry. You may not accept collect calls from a cell phone". Click.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!??????? My cell rang again. And again. And again. Same song and dance.


At 11pm Monday night the house phone rang. I was allowed to press one and I was allowed to hear the sweetest voice I have ever heard. We had approximately 10 minutes to cry, talk, cry, and talk more. I asked him if he was ok. I asked him where he was. I asked him what he was wearing. I asked him if he had anything to eat. I asked him if he had been beaten up.

And then I asked him how in the WORLD this happened.

The gun was in his backpack from the weekend. He threw his piano book in his backpack after his lesson Sunday night without looking, and grabbed his book bag Monday morning as an afterthought to carry his belongings. Never once did he think about the gun in the bottom of the bag. Never once did he think he would be sitting in this position.

I cried. He reassured me. I cried some more. Then the collect call lady told us that we had 1 more minute. Then she disconnected the call.

We arrived at the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, waited on the attorney to show up, and prayed for God to show us mercy and grace.

When the attorney arrived at the courthouse and saw the name of the judge on the chamber doors, he informed me that if we had to go in front of a judge today, that this was not the judge we wanted to go in front of. Great day alive.

At this point there were so many of our family members there that upon entering the chamber, half of us had to go back outside due to limited room for family members. Apparently felons don't always have fan clubs that come to support them.

Chris' mom, my mom, and I sat on the pew (so similar to a church pew I began to sob again). In walk 29 inmates.

Dressed in orange jumpsuits.

I hear a sound that resembles the sound of someone dropping their keys. Ka-chink, ka-chink, ka-chink. I look down and see their feet. In shackles. My mom dug her knuckle in my leg to remind me that if I sobbed any louder we could be kicked out of the courtroom. When I looked at her, she was sobbing too. Apparently she's got the wisdom and experience to know how to pull out the silent cry in situations such as these.

The inmates were told if they turn their heads to the left or right, they will be thrown out of the courtroom and will forfeit their right to a hearing.

So there is my darling husband. Sitting in the middle of 29 orange jumpsuit clad inmates, with shackles on his feet. The same darling husband who just days earlier surprised me with tickets to the Rockettes. The same darling husband who vacuumed the house for me before he left so I wouldn't have to do it. The same darling husband who has taught me how to love. How to be compassionate. How to give of myself to others.

The judge allowed Mr. Glock to accompany Chris to the stand. (Mind you at this point Chris had no idea he was even going to have an attorney, much less Mr. Glock). The judge announced that he was presiding for the judge who normally presided in this chamber. Enter: God moment. Huge God moment. So the icky judge was out for the day. A different judge was sitting in his seat.

The judge announced Chris' charges: felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon in an airport. He posted bond (and the bond was not $50 or $100k-mind you, it thousands upon thousands of dollars, but at least we won't have to sell our firstborn child...well, maybe...) and he did not place any restrictions on Chris (the kicker for him being able to keep his job). Chris would be released (still charged with a felony) and his case would go to the Superior Court (federal offense).

So as I sat calculating how much money we had in savings (a faaaaaar cry from what I needed to produce in a few short hours), I stopped and praised God. I realized that despite the seriousness of our situation and despite the unfathomable nature of what we were (and are) going through, our God is good and He is in absolute control of our every step. I know that we are in this situation for a reason. I don't know what that reason is; I don't even know how we are going to possibly endure the next few months (and years, Mr. Glock reminds me). What I do know is that we will endure them. We will come out stronger than when we went in. And we will praise our God every step of the way.

12 hours later I got to wrap my arms around the man I love most in this world (aside from my dads of course) and we walked out of the Clayton County Jail.

Again, I share this story, not for you all to know the intimate details of our lives (which is silly because now you do...), not to burden you with our stress, but to share how God sees you through even the craziest of times.

People keep telling me that Chris and I have been through so much in our time together. I don't ever understand that comment. I just know that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans...

We love you all and are SO blessed to have so many people who love and support us. Please keep us in your prayers. We will keep you all in ours.

And now off to find that lost box of Christmas ornaments...

"The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundations on the rock."Matthew 7:25

1 comment:

  1. tears are streaming down my face.
    there is nothing i can say, but that i am SO SO SORRY that this happened. i can't even imagine, i honestly can't. how horrific!
    oh my lord.
    i don't even know what to offer--i don't know if a casserole would do you any good, but if you need ANYTHING, please let me know.