It seemed like a scene out of a movie: a pretty young woman working late, alone and probably without a care in the world — until out of nowhere a man takes her by gunpoint to an unknown location, probably never to be seen again.
Unfortunately this was not a movie; these were the events that 18-year-old barista Samantha Koenig faced in her final days of life.
With a devastating event like the Koenig abduction rocking the city, everyone is on edge, taking precautions that they would not have in December to protect themselves and their loved ones from a danger that seems inevitable. But what happens when the fallout finally settles and we go back to our normal lives with the murder fading behind us? We stop looking over our shoulders every few minutes, we leave the pepper spray at home and we go back to thinking nothing bad can happen to us.
Until it happens again.
Koenig’s abduction was one of those events that re-spawned fear in the eyes of the citizens of Anchorage. Many others have occurred before hers.
In 1988 a 34-year-old woman named Magdalina Perez was reported missing after failing to show up to pick up her son. In 2001 Lisa Marie McCumiskey, 20 years old, was last heard from a friend she called on a pay phone after spending the evening at Chilkoot Charlie’s; she never made it home.
And it’s not just women who are at risk of being kidnapped or abducted.
In 2000 Thomas Brabazon was last seen at his apartment in Eagle River. In 2002 Doug Foster disappeared after celebrating his 21st birthday and being dropped off by some friends. In 2004 Damon Bonds, 32 years old, was last seen by some friends who later found his truck abandoned at a parking lot with his dog tucked inside.
Kidnappings, abductions and murders occur frequently, even in a city as small as Anchorage.
People take for granted the ideas of safety when no immediate threat is present. Would Samantha still be alive if she had carried a Taser? Would any of the other individuals be safe at home with their families if they’d been carrying pepper spray? While those questions are not possible to answer for those that have already been lost, it could mean the difference for anyone else out there who ends up out late somewhere alone, male or female.
Fathers sometimes joke, giving their daughters pepper spray and say that it is a way to deter unruly boyfriends. The daughters sigh, roll their eyes, and stuff the spray in their purse just to appease their fathers. Men, young and old, would not consider carrying anything that would make them appear weak.
But unfortunately we live in a time where the threat is real and all people should be taking their safety more seriously.
While we cannot live our lives constantly in fear, why does it always take an event like Koenig’s disappearance to get people to pay attention and take the extra effort to stay safe?
UAA offers a course called Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) to train women of all ages in self-defense training against any assailants. There are also a variety of martial arts courses, which condition people physically and mentally while learning a variety of attacks and takedowns, which can help them in real world situations.
Packing pepper spray, a Taser or even a pocketknife can make the difference. Even keeping car keys in hand can be used as a weapon against a potential attacker. Fighting back has been proven to be a better option than going quietly with someone; a person’s chances of survival are a lot higher because they are more likely to get away or have someone overhear the commotion.
No one can ever be too safe or too prepared when it comes to being attacked. Parents should prepare their children, spouses should prepare each other and friends should prepare other friends. If everyone took a little bit of time to prepare him- or herself, the less likely these abductions would be to occur.