I was bound on the floor just like the rest of them. My hands were behind my back, tied up with the same sort of plastic things they use for handcuffs these days. I knew they couldn’t hold me if I didn’t want them to. But here I was, sitting uncomfortably, a hostage along with seven other people inside the downtown bank.
It was supposed to be a quick trip to the bank. I had planned to run in, deposit my check, then run back out. My lunch break was cut short as it was. Now I was stuck in a difficult situation that didn’t seem to be ending. The men wearing masks were not typical bank robbers. They wanted something specific and were uninterested in cash.
I had been closest to the entrance when the three of them barged in. I was forced to the floor when their leader hit me in the gut with the butt of his shotgun. There was a time when a blow like that would have bruised or even cracked my ribs. That just wasn’t the case anymore. But I played along for the sake of the seven innocent lives inside the bank.
The last of them to enter the bank turned and locked the door behind him. Within 30 seconds, most of us were lined up on the floor against the wall, our hands tied behind our backs. The only one with his hands left free was the manager, but that was because they needed something from him.
The masked men roughly pushed him toward the vault where he nervously fumbled for his keys to let them inside the gate. I watched as all this went on and wondered why they were taking their time. Generally, criminals wanted to be in and out, lowering their chances of being caught. Obviously, whatever these men were after was worth the risk.
While their leader impatiently manhandled the manager, the other two argued about what they should do with us. One of them saw me looking their way. “What are you lookin’ at?!” In two strides he was standing over me, then hit me in the head with his gun. I guess he was hoping that knocking me out would keep my curiosity in check. He was wrong. Mostly because he didn’t knock me out.
Watching me get hit caused the other hostages to gasp or scream and turn away crying. The gang’s leader turned his attention our way and yelled at the one that hit me. For a moment I acted as if I were a bit shaken, but my attention never left the men with the guns.
The manager finally got the gate opened and then was bound and forced to sit with the rest of us. “Are you okay, Tom?” asked one of the tellers.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said, then he looked over at me. “Hey man, are you okay? Looks like he clocked you pretty good.”
“Shut up over there!” yelled the one who had hit me, thus far the most verbal of the three. It’d be nice if he was the least intelligent of them, too. Maybe he’d let something slip about why they were here.
The phone rang. Their leader answered and began talking heatedly with, I could only assume, the police. In all the commotion and attempted concussion, I had missed the sirens and flashing lights arriving outside. The lead man slammed the phone back onto the cradle and returned to the vault, where the other two had been frantically searching for a specific deposit box.
They were all distracted. This was the moment I had to act. I had the ability to take these men out, but I had to be careful about my actions. These things that I could do, the strength and speed, they weren’t exactly public knowledge. As far as I knew, there was no one else like me. I couldn’t imagine the consequences that I’d have to face if I were to reveal what I could do in front of all these people.
He who hesitates is lost. I missed my window of opportunity. All three of them exited the vault and their leader picked the phone back up. He knew that just picking it up would give him a direct line to the negotiator outside. He began making his demands. But his demands made no sense. Nothing about any of this added up. He gave a nod to one of his cohorts, who walked over to us, grabbed the woman next to me, and held a gun to her head.
This was all I could stand. My own moral compass was making demands of me, just as these terrorists were making demands of the authorities. Only the demands upon me were logical. I had the ability to stop these men. I had the ability to save these innocent people from getting hurt or killed. The consequences to my own comfort meant nothing.
I worried that my sudden movement against the masked men would cause them to panic and begin shooting. I didn’t know what a bullet from a gun would do to me, but I knew for sure the effect it would have on the other hostages. My hope was that I would catch them off guard, though. My hope was that they would grow so confused that they’d panic and focus on me.
I pulled my hands apart, breaking the plastic tie with ease. Before the one holding the woman could react, his hand was broken and his gun was on the floor. I put the woman behind me and pushed her captor roughly against the wall. He fell to the ground, unconscious.
The other two looked at me, shocked at what they had just witnessed. To me, what happened next seemed to have happened in slow motion. In a matter of seconds, however, the hostage crisis was over. The one who hit me earlier aimed his gun at me, but before he had a chance to pull the trigger, his gun was disassembled in pieces on the floor. I picked him up and threw him into the one on the phone. They fell in a heap on the ground.
At that point, I think they were too scared to try anything else. I unplugged the phone and used the cord to tie the two of them together. I was confident that the third wouldn’t wake up until he was safely in police custody. And then I turned to my fellow hostages.
They all looked at me with a mixture of fear and wonder. None of them spoke to me as I stood them all, one by one, and broke the ties that bound their hands. Tom ran to the door and unlocked it. We all walked out with our hands in the air as the police moved in to arrest the criminals.
I wasn’t ready for the questions that I would be asked. I knew that the others weren’t ready either. But answers would have to be given. The truth of the day would come out and there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop it.
It was just supposed to be a quick trip to the bank.