What would you do?
Thomas H. Ward
Welcome to the Danger Zone. Many of us have been there at least once in our lives. We arrived there either by our own foolish mistakes or by no fault of our own, a quirk of fate. Most Danger Zone incidents happen in a matter of minutes or seconds. They happen when you least expect them. Once in the Danger Zone, the question is; how do you get out alive?
This is a series of stories based on actual events that have been fictionalized to add suspense and realism. Most of the stories were told to the author verbally, however, some were briefly written down. Names of the characters have been changed to protect their identities.
THE ALLIGATOR ALLEY STORY
After a long weekend in Key West, Florida the Jones family decided to drive back to Tampa early Monday morning to beat the rush hour. Mr. and Mrs. Jones, along with their two daughters, Amy and Erin, are on this short vacation trip.
They had a great time in Key West, taking a much-needed break from work and college. They didn’t want to leave so early but had to get on the road by 4 am to beat the rush hour in the Miami area. Mr. Jones had made this trip many times over the last eight years that they had lived in Florida. Visiting Key West for a long weekend every few months was a great stress reliever.
Checking out of the hotel at 3 am, they headed north on the only road out of the Keys, Route 1. Mr. Jones was driving while the rest of the family was asleep. He knows the way by heart and takes Route 1 to Interstate 75, which crosses the southern tip of Florida known as Alligator Alley. It is named this because Route 75 passes through the Everglades swamp, which is the natural home for gators. There are signs posted on the highway warning that alligators may be crossing the road, so beware.
Alligator Alley is a desolate straight strip of highway that extends from Miami to Naples and is approximately 130 miles long. It takes about two hours to cross. The problem with this stretch of road is that there is only one rest area, which is located halfway across. Cell phone reception is not possible most of the way. There are emergency road phones every few miles in case someone breaks down. The State Highway Patrol covers this highway and is supposed to make regular patrols across it looking for stranded motorists and speeders.
This Interstate is pitch-black at night. There are no streetlights or ambient light from the city once you’re a few miles into Alligator Alley. Mr. Jones is driving at the speed limit which is 70 mph. Actually, his car won’t go much faster than this. He’s a safe driver and doesn’t want to break the speed limit or take any risks with his precious family in the car.
When they finally reached Alligator Alley it was almost 5 am. The sun would be coming up soon. Jones was happy about that because he didn’t like driving in the dark. No one else was on the road, either behind him, or coming from the other direction. He sat back and relaxed, putting on cruise control, listening to music, while his wife and daughters slept. Everyone was tired from the long weekend of swimming and diving. He guessed they would be home before noon, if everything went well.
What worried Jones most was getting a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere. If you’re sitting on the side of the road, you are at the mercy of any nutcase that comes along. It is also possible that a blowout could cause you to lose control of the car and you end up in a ditch, in the gator-infested swamp. He once read a story about a man who was eaten by a gator after his car crashed along Alligator Alley.
Jones popped open a coke and thought, I’ll be happy once we reach Naples where some people actually live. He glanced in the mirror and saw a car speeding up behind him. Its bright lights were on but so were his. It’s dark out here and you never know what could be in the road. He had heard stories about gators lying in the road. If you hit one of those big critters, anything could happen.
Suddenly, catching him off guard, the car zoomed up behind him. It got right on his bumper and started flashing its bright lights on and off. Jones didn’t know what to do, so he slowed down thinking it might be a cop. The car behind him also slowed down, still flashing its bright lights. Jones slowed down to 40 mph and the car was still right on his bumper.
He knew if it was a cop, he’d have some flashing police lights, so Jones sped up and put the pedal to the metal. When he did this, his wife and daughters woke up and asked what was going on. He told them what the car behind them was doing. Everyone turned around in their seats to look at it. One of his girls said, “Dad, please don’t stop! I’m scared.”
He replied, “Don’t worry, I’m not stopping.”
Mrs. Jones asked, “What do they want?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they want to rob us or something. But I’m not stopping to find out.”
Jones floored the car and hit a top speed of 80 mph. He said, “Damn, I can’t go any faster. I can’t outrun them.”
His wife yelled, “Slow down or you’ll get us all killed,” as she held on to the dashboard with both hands. Jones quickly glanced over at his wife. He could tell she was terrified. He took a quick look in the mirror at his daughters who sat there wide-eyed. Their faces told him they were really afraid.
The car stayed right on their tail flashing its bright lights, so Jones slowed down, back to the speed limit. The car zoomed around and pulled up next to them. Two crazy-looking men stuck their heads out of the window and yelled, “Pull over and stop!”
Amy, the oldest girl, said, “Look at those nuts!”
Erin replied, “I don’t want to look at them.” She ducked down and covered her eyes. “We’re going to die!”
“Don’t’ worry. We’re not going to die.” Jones reassured his family.
Then the car passed them and moved in front of the Jones’ car. Its brake lights came on and it started to slow down. Jones couldn’t outrun them, and they knew it. Now they were stopping him in the middle of nowhere. He scanned the highway looking for another car. There were none. He thought, where’s a cop when you need one?
Mr. Jones guessed what these guys were going to do. They would bring him to a stop. Surround his car and take his money. But he didn’t care about the money. It was his wife and two beautiful daughters, who were in their early twenties, that were at risk. Jones would gladly give his life to protect his family. He plotted what he would do when the car came to a stop.
He could wait until they got out of their car and then floor his and try to run a couple of them over and escape. But there was no way he could outrun that car. What if these guys had guns? Most likely they did, because who would drive around at night stopping other cars unless they had a gun. Yeah, Jones was a hundred percent sure they had guns.
The cars were slowly rolling to a stop with the bad guys’ car right on his front bumper. They had slowed down to 20 mph. Jones slammed on the brakes and pulled over to the side of the highway and stopped. The other car rolled to a stop about 50 feet in front of them.
Jones thought, should I floor it and drive around them? No, they’d just pass us again. Should I do a U-turn and go back the way we came? Should I confront them? Should I just give up and let them have their way and beg them not to kill us? He didn’t know what to do.
Jones said a prayer as the nightmare car started to back up. It moved to within ten feet of the Jones’ front bumper. Turning on his bright lights they could see four men in the hell car very clearly.
They were trapped and afraid of what was about to happen. Mrs. Jones, screamed at her husband, “For God’s sake, do something!”
WHAT WOULD YOU DO? (Read further to find out what Mr. Jones did … it could save your life.)
Stop and think very carefully about this situation. It’s one that people have faced in real life. It is a situation that could get you and your loved ones killed if make the wrong decisions. It’s not your fault, but you are not in control of the situation. You are helpless. So, think ahead and be prepared for anything. What are you going to do to escape the Danger Zone?
Select one answer from below that you think is the best solution. Then continue reading to see what Mr. Jones does.
a. Quickly turn around and return the way you came.
b. Wait for the men to get out and then try to run one or two over and speed away.
c. Put up your hands and surrender to them.
d. Jump out of your car and run away into the swamp hoping they will not follow.
e. Assuming you have a weapon use it to protect your family.
The Story continues: “ALLIGATOR ALLEY” (What would you do?)
Mr. Jones replied to his wife, “Please, I am trying to think. Don’t panic or we’ll all be killed. Stay calm and think about what you are doing.”
She answered, “Well what are we going to do?”
“Well, we have no choice but to fight.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. We don’t have a choice. But I’m scared to death.”
“Don’t be scared just remember our training. Do you remember we trained for this sicario once?”
That gave his wife confidence. “Ok, tell me what to do.”
Well, it was a good thing that Mr. Jones and his family were gun owners. They would go shooting as a family hobby every Thursday. They had carry-permits and were armed with two 9mm Glocks that dark scary night. Reluctantly, Mr. Jones pulled his gun and his wife’s gun from the glove compartment. He didn’t want it to come to this, but he had no choice. He could not surrender his family, car, money, and well-being to these highway bandits. The bandits could kill them all or worse. Yes, he was afraid of what would happen next.
Jones kept his headlights on the car, which was now directly in front of them. He advised his daughters to duck down behind the car seat. He told his wife, “If I get shot, you protect the girls. If I go down, shoot to kill. Don’t let them get the girls.”
Mr. and Mrs. Jones both racked a round into their Glock 17 pistols. He reminded his wife, “Keep your finger off the trigger, and don’t shoot unless I tell you. Aim for their chests.” They glanced at each other as he opened his car door. Mrs. Jones watched him and followed exactly what her husband did. Getting behind the driver’s door, he aimed his gun at the car from hell.
Jones shouted, “We are armed! If you step out of the car we will shoot!” After a few minutes, there was no response from the men in the car. He repeated, “We are armed and will shoot if you step out of the car!”
He planned to shoot the first person who stepped out of the car. As soon as he could see a person’s torso, he would fire two rounds at center mass. Shoot first and ask questions later. These guys weren’t stopping them to ask for directions. Minutes ticked by and no one stepped out of the car. No one said a word. Jones was sweating in the hot steamy night. The stress was unbearable. He wondered if he should shout again. He kept his eyes open, carefully watching for a door to open, as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
After what seemed like an hour, the car suddenly revved its motor and sped away, while burning rubber, never to be seen again. The nightmare was over. They didn’t have the guts to test if Jones would use his gun.
The Jones family sat there for a while speechless. What a relief it was to watch them pull away. It was like 2,000 pounds had just been lifted off of his shoulders. He breathed a sigh of relief, bowed his head, and said, “Thank you, God.” Jones lit a smoke to calm his nerves. He noticed his hands were still shaking from the adrenaline. They sat there until another car passed them going in the same direction. Jones figured he’d follow that car just to be safe. Finally, Jones told his family, “It’s safe now. Let’s go home.”
The odd thing was, the car from hell just disappeared into thin air. An hour later, Jones found a State Trooper in Naples, and reported the incident. The trooper advised that these men had been robbing cars along the Interstate for a few weeks. He said that Jones was lucky to be armed. They would have taken his money and car, leaving them stranded in gator alley. Who knows what would have happened to his daughters?
Jones never heard from the police or found out what happen to those men. But that’s typical because many crimes never get solved. The police are simply overwhelmed.
Being trained in the use of handguns, Jones knew what to do and would have done it to protect his family. But what if he didn’t have a gun? What if you didn’t have a gun?
This actual true story sent chills down my spine. What about you? In this case, Mr. Jones was very lucky, or was it luck? Jones was certainly prepared for the incident. It can be concluded that he escaped the Danger Zone because of his foresight and planning.