Fighting for the Trail

 By Mahdiyah Al-Askari
YO: Durham Intern
the Durham VOICE


As a female, I believe we need to protect ourselves with self-defense, instincts and even our words, because we never know what obstacles may come our way.

Being prepared always pays off in the end.

Mahdiyah Al-Askari

If you’ve been following the news, you probably have heard stories of how people are being harassed on the American Tobacco Trail.

As a senior at Hillside New Tech interning with the Durham VOICE, I thought I would share my mother’s experience on the trail earlier this year.

One day when my sister and I left for school, my mother took her usual morning jog on the American Tobacco Trail. She parked under the bridge near Blackwell Street downtown then ran to Hillside High and back. On most mornings things went well and she would tell me later about funny things she saw like the people she knows waving hello.

But this particular time she came across a large man with messy hair. He had a sleeveless shirt and basketball shorts on and he was standing near the bridge going over Roxboro Road.

“At first I wasn’t afraid, but I thought two seconds later, I don’t know his mind set. He was much bigger than me and his presence made me uncomfortable,” she said.

Her instincts told her something was just not right. “There was something about his presence that was very unsettling,” Mama said.

When she finished her jog and turned around to jog back to her car, she passed the spot where he was standing the first time she saw him. She was surprised to see him still standing there, this time instead of staring at her he started walking towards her.

When she made eye contact with him he asked her “Do you know what time it is?” Then suddenly he dropped his pants exposing himself.

She said she was afraid, not of him mostly, but of all the things she could lose as a mother. She has three daughters and a son, as well as her stepchildren. My mother is serious about her family, she wanted to react, but she analyzed the situation and compared the odds.

In the beginning, she wanted to keep jogging as if it didn’t faze her. For the most part she wanted to get away from the situation, but then again, she thought about what could happen and decided to react.

“He was bigger than me,” she said. “So I began to run and scream for help.”

Unfortunately no one was around to see or help her.

When she finally got to her car, she sat for a moment recapping everything that had happened.

“I was going to do everything in my power to make sure he was punished for what he did, as well as get him off the streets to protect everyone else from him,” she told me. “Being as I have daughters to protect as well.”

When she arrived home the first thing she did was call the police.

“The police reacted right away,” she said. “A cop from the trail called me back and I gave him the description of the guy. Ever since then, I’ve seen stories on the news about people being harassed on the trail.”

Other examples of people being harassed include a female jogger back in June that was reportedly assaulted after a man jumped out from behind the bushes and grabbed her. This was not the same man that attacked my mom, but this shows that there are more people out there like that.

The trail is isolated in some areas and if you get caught in a bad area, there may not be anyplace to run.

My mother said she’s even seen people walking the trail with brass knuckles, pepper spray and their dogs for protection.

Ever since that day, she has not gone back on the trail. Now my mother is participating in a local gym and is excited that the problems with the trail are getting attention.

“I am glad that now everyone is aware of this situation,” she said.

I asked her how she is coping with not being able to go back. She explained, “It bothers me that it was taken away from me, but I know that there are always other options.”

One thought on “Fighting for the Trail

  1. Cinawendela nahimana says:

    Beautifully written. Your mothers response to such a violation is one most people won’t appreciate or understand. She’s a smart lady. And so are you. Keep writing, lil lady.

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