Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An attack in Argentina and how I’m dealing with the crime in Minnesota September 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:50 AM
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WHEN THE PHONE RANG early Tuesday afternoon and I picked up to a dial tone, I didn’t think much of it. Just another telemarketer, I figured. But then, the phone sounded again and my 20-something daughter was on the line, speaking to me from Argentina.

“It’s good to hear from you,” I say, surprised really that she is calling given we spoke only several days earlier.

“Well, uh, Mom, I was robbed last night,” she tells me.

I am shocked, momentarily speechless, until I spit out the dreaded words, “Are you OK?”

She is. But her purse and all of its contents are gone—her debit and credit cards, and other important identification, her cell phone and camera. She is stranded, without money, or access to money, with only her passport, in northern Argentina, hours and hours away from her temporary home in Buenos Aires and 6,000 miles from her Minnesota home.

I am thankful, first, that she has not been physically hurt. She sounds fine; she’s had more time than me to digest what’s happened.

Then I ask for details because I need to know how this happened. My daughter shares how she and her friend Ivanna were walking through a “nice neighborhood” toward downtown around 8:30 p.m. Monday when a man came out of nowhere from behind them. He grabbed for my daughter’s purse and as she fought off her attacker, Ivanna screamed for help. Eventually the man got the purse as my daughter fell to the ground. Her assailant, in his mid 30s, sprinted away, hopping onto the back of a motorcycle driven by his accomplice.

Then my second-born tells me she saw no gun, no knife, and I am relieved, yet scared all over again thinking about the possibilities.

All I want is to see my daughter, to hug her, to feel her hair brushing against my cheek, to tell her I love her, to keep her safe.

But for now I can only listen and offer words and lay out a plan to deal with the aftermath of this crime. She and Ivanna immediately went to the local police station. My daughter tells me they waited for an interminable time to speak to the single employee who was working. Several other employees there were simply joking around, she says, and offered no assistance.

Vicariously I am already angry with the police system in this large northern Argentine city. I wonder what today will bring when the two must return to the police station to work on a composite sketch of their attacker.

Back here in Minnesota, I have already spent hours on the phone contacting companies and agencies about the stolen cards. Everyone I’ve talked to has been kind and understanding when I explain what has happened. That reduces the stress level some. Yet, all the phone calls, all the directives to do this and that are wearing on me. During several conversations my voice cracks and I struggle to keep from totally breaking down.

I know this could happen to anyone, anywhere. My oldest daughter, who lives in Minneapolis, tells me this, that this crime could happen on the streets of Minneapolis. She is right. Yet, when an assault like this occurs in a foreign country, 6,000 miles from Minnesota, the whole situation becomes more complicated by distance and communication issues.

I have no doubt that my daughter will recover. She is a strong woman.

As for me, I am counting the days now—23 of them—until she arrives at The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. I cannot wait to have my daughter back, safe in my arms, far from the men who would rob her, and me, of our security.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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