Episode 176- The South Bend Stand Off


So I want to tell you a story today about a night when I thought I was going to die, and that’s not exaggeration and there’ve been a few of them, but I’ll talk about this one today. So about 13 years ago, I was hired to go to South bend, Indiana, not for a Notre Dame game, but to photograph a wedding. And we were pretty new into the business, about a year or two into the business at the job, paid enough I would be there. So we got hired to shoot this wedding in South bend. My son Andrew was about nine months old at that point. So leading him was never fun. I was still working a full time job or building the business. But you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re building and grinding it out. So the bride books a hotel for me and Elizabeth home with Andrew.


It’s a one photographer wedding. And I get to the hotel and I have all my camera gear, a lot of expensive camera gear in the hotel. And I walked next door to go to dinner by myself. And then I come back to relax the hotel, just chill out, watch a movie, get to sleep early, be primed and ready for the wedding the next day. And I call us with on the phone. I just talked to her for a little while. I say hi to Andrew on the phone. I get to hear his voice, I hang up, I turn the lights out, relaxing, watching a movie, and then all of a sudden I hear three guys outside of my hotel room and I can tell they’re right in front of my door and they’re yelling. So that doesn’t happen too often where I stay in a hotel.


So I get concerned just a little bit and I turned the television down. It’s obvious now that they’re not directing it at somebody else directing it at my room. And if anybody remembers those old Nokia phones and had the walkie talkie beeping, that’s what they all had. So I kept hearing two or three phones beeping and they’re sending messages back and forth to each other and they’re saying, get out of the room. Come on man. Get out of the room now. And I’m sitting there in silence and I’m like, who are they talking to? And then they start banging on my door and now they sound really mad. So I creep up to the door and I looked through the people and I see three menacing looking dudes outside my door looking into the people wanting me to come out. And all I could think about is they probably saw me coming into the hotel room with all my camera gear and now they want to Rob me and my camera gear and who knows what else.


So I’m sitting there and I’m starting to freak out a bit and I’m thinking, I’ve got a wife and a new baby at home and I think this might be it. So as these guys continue to bang on the door, I go over and I grab a table that was in the hotel and I put it in front of the door for at least a little bit of a buffer for them not to be able to break the door down. So I run over to the phone and I call the front desk and there’s one person working and that person sounded scared. It didn’t sound like they really want to do anything about it at that moment. So at that point I hear silence and I come back thinking that they’re gone and I looked through the people and there they are still right in front of my door, sitting quietly, almost waiting for me to come out.


And then all of a sudden they start up again. They start banging on the door and they’re on their phones and they’re talking get out here and saying a whole bunch of other stuff that I can’t repeat here. It was then that I realized I need to call the police because there’s nothing else I could do, but I’m still so confused by this. Why would they just lately knock on the door, screwed me to get me out. I just don’t understand what’s going on. I don’t understand why it’s me and how would they really know I had this equipment and why are they doing this? So I hear the beeping on the phone on the walkie talkie one more time and as I’m about to leave to go call the police, I hear them and they sound a little bit more confused as time cause they get on the phone and they’re talking to somebody else.


Then all of a sudden I heard them talking about hotels and hotel names. I heard him say, what are you talking about? The Radison we’re at the holiday Inn. I met a whole bunch of more confusion and I heard one of them say we’re at the wrong hotel and next thing I know they’re gone. And I just dropped into my bed, slumped down and tried to comprehend what just happened. I mean it’s one thing if you get into a car crash and you have no time to think, but it’s another thing where you’re sitting there perfectly healthy in hotel room all by yourself and you realize this might be the end of my life. And all I could think about was my wife and my little baby at home and if things would have went a little bit differently, I might never have seen them again and all because a case of mistaken identity and even more so than a case of mistaken identity, but a lack of correct details.

I think about these guys, these guys that I thought were criminals, possibly murderers, I still don’t know why they were there or who they were looking for, but after my heart calm down, it really told me that they were probably just looking for their friend who wasn’t coming out or maybe they were up to no good, but it wasn’t to the level that I thought it was. And what if I call the police and something went wrong? What if I had a gun with me, which I didn’t had a group of guys are banging on my hotel room door late at night screaming at me to come outside. I mean it could have been tragic and all because they lacked the right information. I think about how often we do things and we’re so sure of why we’re doing it, but we’ve got the wrong information. How often in a conversation, we know we’re right about something.


We will put our fist down and we will make our point and we will hell or high water. Make sure that our point gets across. But then later on we find out we had the wrong information. Do you ever have one of those times? I’ve had them so many times where I’m so sure about my answer. I am positive about what I’m talking about until I find out that I had faulty or incorrect information and I need to backtrack or even worse in the wrong state, defend myself. But these lessons, these experiences in our life, we should be learning from them constantly. These are little clues that aren’t just funny or crazy stories. There’s always something in there that we could do to either make our life better or to teach it to somebody else. And that’s why people ask me, how do you remember these stories?


Cause I always try to take them and attach a lesson to it. And when you can do that, you remember the details a lot better. So unlike these guys, make sure you have the right information on whatever it is that you’re working on before you put yourself out there as having known the answers. And the funny part about that story is that hotel that I stayed at, every time I drive, either to South bend or through South bend towards Chicago, I always drive past that hotel cause it’s right next to the highway. And it was such a moment, it was such a traumatic moment that I still remember the floor that I was on and the window of the room that I stayed in and I recall that experience every single time I go past it. So here’s hoping that never happens to you. And I will talk to you tomorrow.

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