Mama Bear Steps Forward

Late Saturday night mama bear emerged.  We had just finished a glorious day and evening at Island Folkd Fest, returning home far after bedtime with two tired children in arms.  While waiting for the shuttle a drunk woman arrived, muttering and stumbling about.  Out came the car keys for her car, strangely parked just there, and I stood stunned that with over 20 bystanders, nobody was taking action.

A moment’s hesitation as she got in, and then mama bear arrived.  Stepping boldly forward (I’ve always wanted to step boldly forward, sounds so heroine-esque!), I blocked her from closing the door and calmly told her I didn’t feel it was safe for her to drive, asking her to please give me the keys.  And so began my first girl fight.

Seriously, my first fight ever.  Age 42 and I had never ever been physically attacked, had to defend myself or wrestle another human being down.  Yes, this is the charmed (and very sober!) life I’ve led…  She thrashed, screamed profanities, and proceeded to bite down hard on my arm as I struggled to get the key away from her as she started the ignition.  I knew in that moment that I had no other choice – I simply couldn’t let go.  I could not, as a mother, as a fellow human being, allow this woman to drive away.

At this point my hero of a husband jumped into the car, trying to keep her from driving away, ignition still on…  By this time others stepped in – sitting in the back seat of the car with the doors open, running to get security for assistance.  Me reaching in repeatedly trying to get that damned key out of the ignition as she tried to break my fingers & bite me again.

Ultimately security arrived and were able to take over for us, as we gathered our terrified children and jumped on the waiting shuttle bus.  No sleep that night, and another two days since full of thoughts about this 5 minute window in my life, and our children’s lives.

They saw it all – they saw both their parents step forward and take responsibility, and they saw both their parents being beaten by a woman who was too drunk to listen.  They’re old enough to remember this one (7&9).  I feel tremendous guilt for not having been able to care for them, leaving them to watch without being able to preserve their innocence.  We simply had no choice.  I pray to god that the memory we carry is of their parents doing the right thing, of their mother caring for them by caring enough to step forward.

The deep bruising and tooth marks remain on my arm as a reminder.  I have a new understanding of the importance of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and a new appreciation for the power of mama bear.

Gratitude for our safety, and one less drunk driver on the roads of our community.


Mama Bear Sarah

Want to read more?  Here are my husband Rick’s blog musings on our experience –

This entry was posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011 at 9:05 PM and is filed under Family Life, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

21 Responses to “Mama Bear Steps Forward”

  1. Elke says:

    I hope that not only your children but also the other bystanders have learned something about taking responsibility and stepping up. It’s very moving for me to read and I am proud of you both!


  2. Lori says:

    My cousin passed this along to me since I work for MADD in Houston. Just wanted to say “You Rock!” That is amazing and the world is lucky to have a courageous woman like you. Your children will remember, be proud and know where you stand. I know my 6 year old already knows not to drink and drive. Keep fighting the good fight and thanks!


  3. Terry Glavin says:

    Your kids will remember that moment with great pride and fondness. Good for you, buddy.


  4. Stephenie says:

    Thank you Sarah and Rick, my parents live outside of Duncan, and you may have saved their lives that night.


  5. Stephenie says:

    Thank you Sarah and Rick, my parents live outside of Duncan and, well, you may have saved their lives that night.


  6. Suzanne says:

    Just talk to your kids about it. I’m sure you don’t need to hear this from me :-) But to put your mind more at ease, remember that how we think about things afterwards is usually more important than how we feel during an event when it comes to how it affects us in life. I’m sure your kids will remember the situation with pride.

    I just wish I thought I’d have been so courageous and caring in that situation.


  7. Arwen says:

    An amazing story: I teared up. I would suggest your children are blessed with this experience, even though it was challenging. Granted, none of us want our kids to be made afraid or see their parents attacked, but life does present problems and conflicts, and this one was short and done – and yet you’ve given your kids an example of speaking plainly against a danger, and of being willing to put yourself forward, even though there were physical and emotional consequences. I strive to be so willing to stand forward!


  8. Glenys says:

    Thank you, Sarah and Rick, for doing the right thing. What an important lesson for your kids, and for everyone who was watching that night.
    I once entered an alley in downtown Vancouver to stop a man who was pushing a woman around. There was no time to stop and consider the potential dangers of intervening… it just had to happen. Thank you for having the courage and instincts to step in despite the scariness of this situation. We need more people like you.


  9. lanell says:

    i am forever grateful to you sarah, for stopping this woman. i wish a mamabear had had a fist fight with the man who got into his car on a nevada desert highway, drunk and high on meth, and stopped him from killing my brother in law and terribly injuring my dear sister. the sting of this tragedy will never ever fade for the 11 children left fatherless now.

    how i wish there had been a mamabear who stepped in and saved the day for my family.

    thank you sister bear sarah. you saved lives by being so brave and crazy. your children have surely been imprinted in only the best way possible.

    big love to you. lanell


  10. Mike Bingley says:

    I’m glad that your kids saw you do that. Not for the fight, that wasn’t your fault, but for the heroic action that you took, essentially taking a weapon out of the hands of someone who was going to use it in a dangerous manner.

    I hope that I have the guts to do that if I see something like that happening.

    Well done!


  11. the girlchild says:

    I can tell you that one drunk driver can change the course of a family’s life forever. You said, “I feel tremendous guilt for…leaving them to watch” but I think, they watched you stand up for what you know is right. They watched you stand your ground. They watched others come to your aid, and they watched you stop what was a horrible accident in the making — if not this time, then the next time she chose to get behind the wheel. I wish someone had stood up and taken the keys from the man that hit my famiy, and made a difference like you did. Peace.


  12. Erin says:

    Moved to tears. Maybe because I want to think I would have done the same thing, but there’s probably better than even odds I wouldn’t have. Kudos to you, mama bear. You inspired others to step in and help, and now you’re inspiring me :)

    I love the Island Music Fest. I hope to be able to go again – I went in 2008, and had one of the best festival experiences I’ve ever had :)


  13. Lori says:

    Though this may have been a little traumatizing to your boys, what they will remember when they’re big is that both of their parents stepped in when it was the right thing to do and when no one else was willing to. They stepped in when others didn’t know what to do and we’re too uncomfortable to intervene. The gave others permission to take action when others were unsure. What an amazingly wonderful thing to have modeled for them. Way to go mama bear! May this mama bear have the strength to model that same courage.


  14. Ted Godwin says:

    I don’t think we have ever met but I saw your story linked by Bernard on FB and I just wanted to say thank you. The word hero gets thrown around a lot these days so I hope it does not sound trite but I think you are a hero. Putting yourself at risk to save an ungrateful idiot’s life and those she would have put at risk was a brave thing to do. We are so often told by the media that we can do nothing, that it is someone else’s problem. The willingness to step up is something to be encouraged. Thank you.


  15. Sarah, I am happy to see you take this action. It is so rare for people to step up and take action. When I do, I almost always feel like I am utterly alone in the crowd and often sensing a disapproval from those around me.

    Being able to act in this situation means you will have the strength to react and take action when something happens in a split second. Most people freeze because they have never acted before to help.

    You and Rick have shown your kids what people need to do.


  16. Katy says:

    Wow, Sarah, what a terrible experience, though one you can feel proud of none the less. This must be why so many people don’t step in–the fear of being hurt themselves. And sad for your children, yes, but if they have to lose some of their innocence, what better way than to see that good people like their parents step in and step up and keep them safe. That is the sort of power we want our children to see, pure, loving mama bear power. I’m sure they will remember this with great pride in their mother an father.


  17. That is a fantastic story. I’m sorry that you had to go through that and that your children may have been upset – but what an important lesson (if a scary one too). I have been amazed by my transformation since becoming a mother as I too have tapped into a fierce strength that must have always been there, but I never bothered to dig deep enough to find. As you stated, I think you had to act quickly and that you used your love and care for your children to take the most important action, and now they have your love and support to help process what they witnessed. Rock on.


    Sarah Juliusson Reply:

    Thanks for putting that into words so nicely. This love and care is the root of both the action and the response with my children in the days to come.


  18. Callie says:

    Way to go, Sarah! Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and your gut was right on the mark. As the physical marks from the altercation subside, here’s hoping the emotional marks on you and yours lessen. Aside from the shock of the situation as it was being played out, I’ll bet your boys are super proud of you too, and will be able to process everything in time.


  19. Lulu says:

    Well done Sarah. Hard to hear that you risked physical injury for the sake of others, but I feel that drunk drivers are a plague in our society.
    I thank you for your courage, and for following your instincts. I hope your bruises heal fast, and hope your spirit rises to put the violence behind you asap. Be well…thank you again, for sharing, and for your strength.


  20. angela says:

    Well done, Sarah. We are proud in London!! I once saw a very large man start to take his belt off at soccer to whip his son. I could not believe my eyes. There was some cover of trees but really it was out in the open at AYSO and everyone turned a blind eye. I am not sure what gave me the strength to step forward except that I knew I was not going to allow him to hit that child on my watch. I calmly told him that I was not going to allow him to do that and he just as calmly told me in was not my business I continued to say the same phrase a little louder each time until we draw alot of attention to ourselves and he put his belt back on. I knew I was not stopping him from hitting his child altogether, but at least for that moment the boy was safe and not humiliated in front of his peers. Sometimes we are driven to act be what is right and sometimes there is no time to think, just pure instinct.


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