20 Years Ago I was Attacked in Cedar Rapids

Dave Rasdal
Published: October 17 2012 | 4:22 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:09 am in
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It was a night I'll never forget. Oct. 16 into Oct 17, 1992, when I was beaten up in a Cedar Rapids parking lot along First Avenue SE. I'm just lucky I didn't have any long-lasting effects from it except that it's something I'll always remember this time of year.

Here's my column about it that ran Nov. 1, 1992. The column is also included in my book, "Ramblin': Reflections of Hidden Iowa."

After attack, haunting questions of why? Why?

Ramblin' by Dave Rasdal

Every morning when I wake up, I hope it gets better. I hope that, as I look in the mirror, my left eye won't be so black and blue and purple and red. I hope that my double vision will be gone. I hope that the dead sensation in the left side of my face will disappear.

I also hope that my mind will be a little clearer. That my reflections of Oct. 16 will be a little further removed. That somehow I will quit recalling over and over how I was beaten and robbed in a well-lighted parking lot along First Avenue East, the busiest street in Cedar Rapids.

WHY? WHY? WHY?

The questions drive me crazy.

A woman who was raped can tell you what it's like to be physically violated. A pre-teen, jumped for his Air Jordan basketball shoes, can tell you how devastating it is to have a possession taken from him. A man with one good eye can tell how difficult it is to see.

I have an idea how these people feel. All because I dared to flash my bright lights at a slow moving car.

I was alone, on my way from Marion to central Cedar Rapids to meet a friend at midnight after he got off work, when a small gray car pulled in front of me. It was traveling 20 mph in the 35-mph speed zone. I changed lanes to pass. The car changed lanes in front of me. I flashed my bright lights and waited.

Nothing.

I flashed my bright lights again. The car moved to the left-turn lane. I passed and went on my way. The car returned to the traffic lane, following me along First Avenue a half-block behind. There were no bright lights in retaliation. No honking horn. No tailgating. No warning that as soon as I pulled into the parking lot I would be attacked.

It happened so fast. It was over in 20 seconds. As I emerged from my car, keys still in hand, I was slugged in the face.

"This is for bright lights," he yelled.

I fell to the ground. I was hit again. Yelling, I raised my arms for protection. I was hit again.

"Break the windows out of his car," he yelled. "Grab his wallet."

Glass shattered. Hands groped at my back pocket. I was hit again. My left eye throbbed with pain. I rolled beneath my car, cupping my hand over my eye. My fingers became sticky with blood.

THANK GOD FOR FRIENDS. Terry and Jennifer and Michelle rushed me to the hospital emergency room as the inside of my head burned and the rest of my body shivered. Nurses and doctors came to my rescue with shots and X-rays and eye tests.

"You're lucky you didn't lose that eye," said the ophthalmologist, waving a finger in front of my eyes.

Were there two fingers? Maybe three?

An antibiotic would kill infection. Aspirin with codeine would kill the pain. Ice water killed the dryness in my throat. At least I wasn't stabbed or shot. At least I was alive.

Finally, nearly three hours later, I crawled into my bed. As I tried to sleep, demons danced in my head: Why did you flash your bright lights? Why didn't you stay in the car? Why didn't you run? Why didn't you fight back? Why were you in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Why? Why? Why?

"NO MATTER WHAT you might think, it wasn't your fault," Suzanne says.

"Is it going to be so ugly I can't look at it?" asks Scott.

"You'll be all right in a couple of months," Tracy says, comfortingly.

"Did you run into a door knob?" John says, jokingly.

"What's the other guy look like?" asks Tom.

I wish I knew. But there are no faces and no clues. Just four angry young men in a little gray car who are $25 richer and have pictures, a driver's license and credit cards that do not belong to them. Four ghosts floating though my mind.

Flashing bright lights is no crime. Assault and robbery could lead to 25 years in prison. There is no comparison.

I HAVE A blow-out fracture of the left orbit. The skull below my eye is cracked and eye tissue rests upon the sinus along my nose.

I have a crushed cranial nerve. It leaves my left cheek, lip and gum dead.

It's been two weeks, the bills are approaching $1,000, and doctors may still have to operate to eliminate the double vision. Even that may not work. I could have double vision, to some extent, the rest of my life.

Nothing can be done about the nerve. It might heal in two months. Or it could take six.

THE ONLY real damage to my car is the broken rear-view mirror on the driver's side. I haven't found time to repair it. Every time I climb into my car, out of habit, I look into the cracked mirror. The zigs and zags obscure my vision. I cannot see behind me.

I wish it was that easy to block out the past. I wish I could eliminate the sudden starts that overcome me when a sudden movement flashes in the corner of my eye. I wish I could get on with my life without fear.

No matter how I come out of this, I will not forget. I now realize that anyone, anywhere, at any time, can become an innocent victim of our increasingly violent society. I know that it can even happen to me.

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