Twenty seconds is all it takes…. My story.

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Twenty seconds is all it takes to change life forever. Twenty seconds is only one third of a minute, but it can hold an eternity of “what ifs.” A period of just 20 seconds on October 30th, 2006 is why I am typing this today in my home in Melbourne, Australia and not in Los Angeles, California.

It was a Monday and our nearly two year old daughter was sick. Not REALLY sick, but enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. The sun was shining and we were all excited for Halloween. I wanted to make sure that she would be well enough to trick or treat in the neighborhood. Since we got an early appointment, we were back home by noon. Our house in Los Angeles is on a corner block. As we enter the garage from the side street, we do not even go past our front door driving home.
We entered through the back laundry room and immediately went towards the front door to check the mail. Little toddler Gemma, following just a few steps behind me. I rounded the corner from the long galley style kitchen into the front room and could see him through the plantation blinds. Standing there on our front porch was a large man holding a shovel. It registered immediately that he was acting nervous…standing up and sitting down and scanning the neighborhood. I wondered for a split second if I had forgotten an appointment to interview a new gardener since we had just fired our old one. He stood again and turned back to reach for our front door The rest is all a blur, but I looked to my right at the foyer and could see a bright shaft of noon sun falling across the tile. That light meant only one thing… our front door was open a crack and what I was seeing was not a man showing up to interview for a gardening job, but to break into our home. Luckily, Gemma stayed put as I ran and threw my body against the heavy wooden door to shut it again and screamed “What the **** are you doing?” Luckily, that must have startled him and he threw the shovel and ran.

Twenty seconds longer and we would have not had that door between us.

Twenty seconds of hesitation and he would have been in the house alone with my daughter and me.

What if the doctor had not been able to see us until later. What if I caught one more red light on the way home or had to wait behind a car that was turning. What if we stopped for a treat or gasoline. What if we had been just 20 seconds longer getting through the back yard and into the house. Danger is not always obvious or expected. It was noon on a Monday in a nice and active neighborhood. WHAT IF????

I called 911 when I was sure he had run and it was safe to move from the door. Then I hung up and called my husband and told him that we were moving to Australia. We had thought about it for a long time, but those 20 life changing seconds made crystal clear, our decision to leave Los Angeles.


Play It Safe By The Water wants everyone to be aware of how much can happen in just 20 seconds and to please, never take your eyes off children around water. It only takes 20 seconds for a toddler to drown.

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  • Bobbi Cotter via Facebook - Oh mama, scary.December 20, 2012 – 9:21 amReplyCancel

  • Renée Lee via Facebook - Chills. Down my spine. =| This is such an eye-opener.December 20, 2012 – 9:32 amReplyCancel

  • Laney | Crash Test Mummy - So scary. You were pretty brave to run at the door. I’m not sure what I would have done. I am glad you live in Australia now though.

    In 20 seconds CrashBoy can disappear, wreck something, or worse. I have to be so vigilant with him, and when we’re around water it is quite unnerving. A great message from you all.December 20, 2012 – 9:33 amReplyCancel

  • Melissa - So scary! Glad you guys were ok!December 20, 2012 – 10:19 amReplyCancel

  • Hannah Cary Photography - I’ve been following the journey of a fellow photographer’s family over the last few months as they try to piece their life back together after a 20seconds by the water tragedy. It’s heartbreaking.

    So glad you managed to get to your door in time Rachel!
    And glad you’ve found a home away from home that makes you feel your kids are more secure.

    Thank you for sharing such an important message.December 20, 2012 – 12:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Rachel Del Grosso - wow. i’m in awe. so glad you guys were okay!December 20, 2012 – 12:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Nancy Donaghue Saunders via Facebook - And this is why I live in Minneapolis/St. Paul and not someplace like LA. The weather’s not always idyllic (ha!) but schools are good, crime’s low and life is pleasant.December 20, 2012 – 2:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Twenty seconds is all it takes…. My story. | shootplex - […] Read more here: Twenty seconds is all it takes…. My story. […]December 20, 2012 – 3:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Charlaine - Oh Rachel, I remember when this happened, it’s scary how fast everything can change. I’m glad in this case it all worked out.December 20, 2012 – 4:55 pmReplyCancel