The attack

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May 27, 2014

As many of my friends already know, I flew directly from Bogotá to Canada in early May, rather than journeying to Barrancabermeja to complete the final month of my stint on team with CPT. I have been asked many questions about what happened to me, so I will describe the incident here. If reading about violence is a trigger for you, I recommend you stop reading here.

On my last night in Bogotá, I went to visit friends, two Canadians who work for Mennonite-related organizations, whom I had met during my language study. We cooked dinner, chatted, and around 9:00 p.m. I decided it was time to head home.

My friend offered to call a cab for me, but I had only budgeted enough for one more cab ride—and that would be the one from my apartment to the bus terminal with all of my bags the following afternoon. I made a joking comment about being broke and enjoying the exercise, and she walked me down to her front door. I hugged her goodbye with a parting, “See you in September.” She told me which side of the street would be safest to walk on.

A few weeks before we had met at a tea shop in the neighborhood, and I had walked home after dark then as well. I had felt safe then, and so not being a particularly cautious person, it didn’t occur to me to worry about my safety this time.

As I started walking down the road a taxi drove by me slowly. Once again I thought about flagging it down but decided against it.

I had only made it a block and a half when three men appeared from behind the wall of a building. They were quiet and didn’t appear to be in a hurry. As one began to walk towards me, it occurred to me that they might be drunk and on their way to or from a bar.

He suddenly stretched out his arms and began to move faster saying, “Hello, my beautiful.” I braced myself, preparing for what I thought would be an uncomfortable hug. As he wrapped both arms around my neck, my eyes focused on another one of the men who had just stepped into the pool of light from a nearby street lamp. He wore a brown leather jacket, his hair was jelled, and he looked like he was in his late twenties. Our eyes met briefly and he stopped moving.

Then I heard a loud cracking noise—I had no idea what it was—but was startled and began hitting the man who was restraining me in the back of the head, as hard as I could. Suddenly he doubled over so his head was in the centre of my torso, and reached his arm around the back of my leg. I kneed him hard in the face and he let go of me.

Then I turned and ran, taking note as I did that my left leg was collapsing inward and didn't appear to be working well. When I arrived in front of my friends’ home, I looked over my shoulder, and saw the men take off around the corner.

Two women were standing outside the front door of the building, and they let me in as I struggled to explain, in Spanish, what had just happened. Only when I had gotten inside and had checked my bag (glad to find that none of my possessions had been stolen) did it occur to me to touch the back of my leg. My hand came back covered in blood. I hurriedly told the women the names of my friends who lived in the building, and staggered up the two flights of stairs to their door.

Once there I changed out of my ruined jeans and tied a tourniquet around the wound as they called a taxi. I was in shock, but not emotionally distraught, and was not in any pain.

We went to a nearby clinic, where they admitted me quickly and did X-rays to ensure that none of my arteries had been hit. The doctors told me that the wound was deep but clean, and that I was incredibly lucky to have lived. If the knife had been only a centimetre to the left, it would have cut my femoral artery and I would have died.

They were able to stitch up the wound, give me some antibiotics, and send me on my way that night.

I made the decision to come home to Canada after getting my stitches out because I wanted to reconnect and process this event with my church community in Kitchener. Since I was unable to walk without crutches, I didn’t feel that I would be very useful to the CPT team in Colombia.

I am incredibly grateful for the hospitality I received from my friends in Bogota, who welcomed me into their home for over a week while I was recovering, and for those who helped me with my medical appointments, police report, and running errands.

Thanks be to God that I am safe.

Stay tuned for another post with my reflections on the experience.

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Comments

Cass, I'm so grateful you came through this experience alive and with the willingness to share about it.

Your work puts you on the front lines of active peace, and that's a risky place to be. Thank you for the work you do putting into practice the pacifist convictions of our community.

Cass, I'm in Bogota now but going to be back in K-W in July. If you're still there I'd love love to sit down and think with you about this incident and these blog posts.

with love and hope,
Sara

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