A Still Small Voice & A Gunshot
I'm a songwriter, & I was kidnapped at 19.
On Wednesday November 14th I was babysitting for a friend in East Nashville, and as I was getting into my car to drive home a man opened the passenger door, got inside, and held me hostage in my car for about an hour. I remember the first thought I had in my mind was “I must have forgotten something in the house and my friend Janna is running out to to stop me from leaving,” until I realized quickly that the person sitting in my passenger seat was a man dressed in black clothing with a gun pointed at my body. (Just a quick side note I’m with family in Colorado now writing this out now. I’ve been anxious to write about it because writing is how I process things. I’ve always journaled and written to process my thoughts, so I guess that’s exactly what this is because I can’t quite put this all into words any other way. Bear with me in case I overshare :)) The man took my phone out of my hands and told me to drive with both hands on the wheel. I pulled out of the neighborhood as he told me to go to the nearest ATM. I wasn’t familiar with the area so he pulled up a GPS on his phone and started telling me where to turn. Unlocking my phone, he asked me for my Apple ID password and (of course) I couldn’t remember it. (You’d think that with a gun pointed at you you’d remember every password you’ve ever had but yeah…nope.) After telling him I couldn’t remember it, the man got very angry. The next thing I know, he put the gun to my head saying “maybe with force, you’ll remember it. If you don’t do what I say I will pull this trigger, I’ve killed before so ending your life would be easy for me”. I was in complete shock. I started praying but the only thing that was repeating over and over and over and over again in my head was “Jesus, help me.” At this point, it was about 3:30pm - we were right in the middle of downtown and traffic was getting heavy. As we pulled up to the West End area, there was a Wells Fargo on the right where he told me to pull in. He pulled his ski mask over his face and got low in the car with the silver gun at my stomach. There were 2 police cars parked in the parking lot of the gas station a few hundred feet away, and this must have spooked him because as I pulled up to the ATM he told me not to stop and to keep driving through it and back onto the main road. At that point he kept saying over and over that he was “on a mission” and needed $900 by 4pm and if I didn’t have it in time, he’d shoot me. He was angry again and threatened to hit me if I didn’t hurry up so I kept driving. As we stopped beside other cars he told me to pretend I was on my phone so nobody would get suspicious. We were at a red light when he put the gun down and started looking through my car and my laptop for valuables. All I could think about was that if I ran in that moment, I wouldn’t get out in time before he reached for his gun. He started asking personal questions like “how old are you? Are you a student? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you do drugs?” Every now and then he’d ask me “Are you ok?…Ok, good”. We drove for a few more blocks and pulled into the drive through ATM of the First Tennessee bank on 30th and West End. Something in me told me to pull up far enough from the machine so that I could step out of my car completely just to reach it. I did, I opened the door but only half of my body was out of the car. He gripped my hoodie with one hand reaching over the seat, and the other hand was holding the gun at my side. I started pressing buttons on the ATM terrified out of my mind praying for wisdom. Praying for a still small voice. Scenarios of things that could happen if I got back into my car started running through my head. What felt like the shortest but longest few seconds standing at the ATM made the man angry so he told me to get back into the car and continue driving. I did. I didn’t take the money out, and somehow as we were driving away I convinced him to let me turn around and try again. It was almost 4pm and the gun was pointed at my head again as I pulled into the bank for the second time. This time there WAS a still small voice telling me to park even further so that when I pulled up I could open the door and get my entire body out of the car to reach for the machine. I don’t know what happened then. I really don’t. I wish I could explain every little thought in my brain exactly how it happened but I can’t. It’s like for a second I was not in control of my body. I pulled away and he pulled the trigger. I couldn’t hear anything except a loud ringing in my brain, I smelled a fired gun and my body felt absolutely nothing except for the man’s hand still gripped on my hoodie for what felt like the longest few seconds ever. I started taking the hoodie off, but I felt him let go and I ran around the building inside the bank. There was nobody in the bank except for a few female tellers behind the desk. I ran to the back of the bank asking for a phone to call my brother Ruslan. Long story short, after some blood and my first time in an ambulance and getting needles in my body, I got to the hospital. This next part is for all my fellow Grey’s Anatomy fans:
The paramedics pulled me out of the ambulance and into the hospital and literally everybody and their mom was there. “You guys can stop staring I’m fine” is literally the only thing that came out of my mouth. Idk if it was just me in shock or something the paramedic gave me that just made me say literally everything that came into my brain. They pulled me into a room full of doctors all scrubbed in wearing all white. I felt like I was living Grey’s Anatomy for a second and Dr. Derek Shepherd was standing right above my face. After getting cleaned up, I got a CT scan. By the grace of God, it showed no complications. The bullet went through and through and no vital organs were hit. “It’s a miracle,” is what the doctor said when I was pulled out. “Your body is small and if you were shot a few inches in any other direction, it would have been life threatening.”
November 14th was the worst day of my life. I’m still in complete shock and trying to process everything but the one thing I am absolutely sure of, is that God is so. incredibly. good. The hour I was in the car with my kidnapper, I did not recognize any of my movements or words that I spoke to him, as my own. The Lord is my protector, and the ultimate giver of complete and TRULY unexplainable peace. I didn’t just hear God’s still small voice at the ATM, I felt his Holy Spirit overtaking body the entire time. Speaking and moving for me. God calculated every single thing that happened that day. Every turn I took, every word I spoke to this man. Every inch of my body sitting the way I was, the gun placement on my body. The distance between the car and the ATM. When I got my clothes back at the end of the day, I noticed that besides the bullet holes, the hoodie I was wearing had a tear in the back where the man was holding me. Only then did I realize that the man didn’t actually let go of me. I pulled away so hard that my sweater ripped. Every single detail was orchestrated by God. I saw every person I love and care about right in front of my eyes while I was driving in that car. Seeing your life flash before your eyes is only something I thought happened in movies and never thought could happen to me — but it did. I don’t think I will ever forget that man’s voice. His light brown eyes. The way he said “Are you ok?…ok good” still plays over and over and over again in my head. Sometimes I still see pictures in my mind of his body opening the door and sitting down. I remember the distinct feeling of the gun against my skull. This morning as I was getting out of the shower my brother’s cat’s paw slid through the crack of the bottom of the bathroom door and I jumped out of fear. This whole thing is traumatic, and though I’m ok I know it will take time to physically heal and emotionally recover completely. But it will NOT stop me from sharing what happened because it is my testimony. Kidnapping is real. And it happens way more often than we think and everyone needs to be aware. This is part of my story now, and it’s is my declaration of how good God is. How precious life is. How important it is to hold your closest people close. And that even though there is horrific and evil things happening in this world, good will always outweigh it. Don’t be afraid to ask me about it, I really am ok and WANT to talk about it. I will not be silent about this story and God’s goodness and grace on my life.
As of right now, my kidnapper is still out there. I am safe with my family home in Colorado and I’m not sure when I will be returning to Nashville. The wound in my side is healing, and thankfully I am able to walk when the pain isn’t too bad. Thank you to each of you who have reached out through text or social media. My Bridge family, I love you all so much and am so grateful for your prayers and support and I cannot wait to see you! My siblings, best friends, parents, and Chris, you guys are my rock and I am so glad I can be with you right now. The woman at the Southwest desk who was so kind, you too ;) Artist and songwriter friends in Nashville, my cousins and family. Everyone who has given gifts, I cannot express my gratitude. I am blown away by the love and am speechless at how much you care. Your prayers are carrying me.
Lastly, to my abductor:
To be honest, the last thing I am thinking about right now is how I feel about you. I want you to know that I may have been scared the second you opened that door, but after a few moments, there was peace and POWER inside that car and it was far greater than fear. And now, I am surrounded by SO MUCH LIGHT AND LOVE. I don’t know you. I don’t know if you pulled the trigger on accident or on purpose, or if you’ve really killed somebody before like you said, but now looking back I know that you were scared. Maybe with time it will be more clear — my feelings towards you, but for right now the only thing that comes to mind and that I am absolutely sure of, is that God’s grace that protected me inside that car, is sufficient for you too.
Elina Odnoralov Tafoya
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