After being shot three times in the head by her boyfriend Michael, Lonnie played dead for seven hours until the SWAT team finally rescued her. She is a forty-one-year-old glass artist who continues to live and work in the same house where in 2001 she almost lost her life. The scar on her check is still visible. She has decided not to have plastic surgery to fix it. “It is who I am now. It is my star nebula. I think my scar looks like the opening of heaven.”
I was sitting on the couch. He came up to me and pinched my neck until I passed out. When I came to, I could see the gun. It was aimed at my head, and he fired. I heard the second shot but did not feel pain. My brain took over and separated from my body. My brain decided the best thing for me to do was play dead so he wouldn’t shoot me again. I slumped down on the couch and went out because it would have been too horrible to remember.
He put a pillow over my head and shot two more times. It was very loud; I still have damage in my ear. When I came to, I noticed the pillow on my head, and I had one foot on the floor so I could feel the vibrations of him walking around. I knew my only chance for survival was to be smarter than he was. I figured out I was alive. I was expecting to see a white light and I thought, if I am dead, I will see my father, and he will come down and get me. Then I noticed my fingers and my toes and knew that I needed to reduce my heart rate and my breathing so I would look like I was at least unconscious.
When he went out of the room to answer the door, I reached up for the phone on the table and dialed 911. I said, “I have been shot in the head twice,” gave my address, and then hung up. I didn’t want to give him any reason to shoot me again, so I was hoping to lie in the exact position. For four hours, I had not moved until I reached for the phone. When the police came, it became a hostage situation. I lay there for another three hours, hoping he would commit suicide.
He was calm. He sat at the desk at the computer playing games and writing plans on what to do with my body. He was going to call my mom and tell her we were going out of town for a few days; he was going to call my work and tell them I was sick. He was going to hook up my truck on the back of his motor home. Part of the note said, “duct tape hands, feet, mouth, plastic in shop.” He was deciding what to do with my body. I am sure he was going to put it in his motor home, drive off to a remote location, and bury my body.
I knew they could see him in the window and wondered why they couldn’t just shoot him. I just wanted them to get me out. He finally decided to give himself up, took his shirt and hat off, and walked out the front door. The paramedics came in, put me on a little tiny board, and got me to the hospital where they performed an emergency tracheotomy because my throat was swelling from the wound.
That was the scariest part of everything—reading that note. It was the most horrible thing. I noticed that every time the words duct tape came up, it was this shock for me, so I had to deal with it. I had to transform it. For me to actually go into my workshop and get the duct tape he would have used, to pull it off of the shelf, to handle it, to tear it, to touch it would have been horrible. But I knew I had to do it. I had to turn it into something else. Otherwise, I would have been walking into the shop saying, Oh my God! There is the duct tape.
I did a whole series of artwork on being shot. Art helped me through this; it was a process. The last one I did, called “For all the women who have died: duct tape, hands, feet, mouth,” was the hardest for me to work on. I worked with duct tape.
So, the art process gave me permission to experience it, to deal with it, to process it, to take it away from a horrible memory, to transform that duct tape back into just duct tape.
Through counseling, I had to go through a process of saying “duct tape.” I had to laugh about it, ask, “Why is it called duct tape? Is it d-u-c-k or what?” I had to play with it because anytime someone said, duct tape. . . You would not believe how many times it comes up in conversation. It is, like, so common.
While I was in the hospital, I decided I did not want to be fearful, inward, scared, and feel like a victim. I couldn’t talk, my mouth was wired shut. I knew they were going to talk me into taking drugs, which I did not want to do. I didn’t want to cover up any of my feelings. I wanted to feel them all; I wanted to be able to process them all. I didn’t want to shy away in any way because I knew they would just keep coming up over and over in my mind as trauma. I wanted to deal with it head-on—there, then, now—and not delay it. Drugs, I knew, would do that. I was going to make decisions about my life that were positive and life affirming. There was no reason for me to stay in that moment or keep reliving it over and over. I also decided I was going to talk about it a lot in order to take the shame out of it. He was not going to take anything else from me.
I grew up with a religious background but decided as an adult that I did not need it. But when I was in the hospital, I had visions. From my hospital bed, I could see the sky with all the clouds and the colors from the sun. It felt like I was in heaven. What I saw was so clear and beautiful. The clouds began to form hands that were warm and nurturing, and then I saw an image of a man, and I knew it was Jesus. But he was not the biblical Jesus—white with blonde hair—he was Arab looking. He faded and then the mother and child appeared. I knew when that happened that I had to believe. Then the heavens opened, and it looked like a star nebula. I went into it and saw a place like heaven where I heard chatter. This happened one month after 9/11 when the U.S. was invading Afghanistan. I was given a message that things were going to be okay and that there was a battle raging between good and evil on earth and in heaven. The message was also that there was hope and that good would prevail. I believed I had been in a battle of good versus evil with Michael.
One of the investigators on the case asked me if I believed in God. I said, “I do now.” I always believed Jesus was an important man who lived on this earth and had a loving, wonderful message. He was in the same category as Muhammad and Buddha and any other image of what we call a presence of God. There is a reason I am alive. How could I not change spiritually after experiencing something like this?
Pull quote: I did a whole series of artwork on being shot. Art helped me through this; it was a process. The last one I did, called “For all the women who have died: duct tape, hands, feet, mouth,” was the hardest for me to work on. I worked with duct tape.