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Chris Whitlock - Father For 2014

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We were raised in a family with emphasis on our faith, respect for elders, the love of family and importance of education...





"Congratulations you are the 3rd fastest drug free runner in the world."





My first thought was "April Fools" until we heard the gunshot and a shout.





I went back to my childhood, my faith; I said my prayers and counted every bead on my imaginary rosary.





My mind and heart raced as I felt like a farm animal waiting for slaughter.





They took 9 hours of my life but an entire life from three individuals. And my prayers will be with those families forever.

When I was told that I was selected as SPORTNDUCK FAV DAD 2014, the first words out of my mouth were,  "why me?" They said, "your story needs to be told because it is inspiring and courageous and has challenged you to become the great Dad and Teacher that you are.”

I grew up in a family with seven siblings and at the age of five our family moved from San Francisco to a 13 acre farm in Sebastopol, California. I knew at an early age that I would become an athlete having been inspired by my father who was a professional boxer in the 1950's. He knocked out many before he fought the heavy weight champion of the world, Floyd Patterson and was KO3.

I lived in the shadow of my father and my all-star older brother Byron who was personally honored by Willy Mays for his outstanding athleticism. I remember this moment so vividly because they accidentally called my name instead of Byron. Little did I know that this event would not be my 10 seconds of fame! We were raised in a family with emphasis on our faith, respect for elders, the love of family and importance of education.

Track became my passion and by the age of 21, I was traveling the world with a record of running the 400m in 44 seconds and the 200m in 20 seconds. And for one year, I had a contract with Nike! In 1984 I made it to eighth place in the Olympic Finals. I was chosen to run on US teams in Tokyo, Monte Carlo and Belfast.

Unfortunately, I did not make the 1988 Olympic team. I returned to college and soon after the 1988 games, I received a letter from the US Olympic Committee. It read, "Congratulations you are the 3rd fastest drug free runner in the world." Other letters followed identifying the drugs being used by other athletes and warning that use of performance enhancing drugs would result in disciplinary measures.

I moved on and worked with my brother David while in college. After college I found employment at the Department of Food and Agriculture - bringing me back to my farming roots. This was around that time I met my beautiful wife Montha.

Sacramento hostage crisis - The Largest Hostage Rescue in US History

I was laid off from my position at the lab on April 4th1991 and was headed for a 1:30 interview in downtown Sacramento. I was running ahead of schedule and stopped at an electronics store for some supplies. On my way out I stopped to check out a cool stereo and in the next 30 seconds I saw a man running toward the back of the store with a mask over his face and a gun in his hand. My first thought was "April Fools" until we heard the gunshot and a shout.

A couple with their 2 children and I looked at each other and I told them "they'll rob it and run." A minute or two went by and we didn't hear anything so we decided to run for it. As soon as we reached the door we were face to face with a masked gunman. He waved a gun as we scuttled to the back of the store. At the time I counted four gunmen and about 38 hostages. I later learned there were 50 hostages total.

They started by tying us up in groups and I was part of the last group of 4 men tied up. They were fearful of the male hostages and as they waved their guns at us, we would turn to reassure them that we were still tied. We were extra cautious not to alarm them as we kept a close watch on their every move. They were young teenagers and were easily agitated. Police and News crews soon arrived.

My wife was worried when she saw I wasn't back from my interview, but it was not until the Oprah show was interrupted to broadcast the hostage crisis that her worse fears were realized. My sister recognized me as one of the hostages on national television. The front of the store was visible from the parking lot and I could see my car. The news crew and police could see the activity in the store.

I went back to my childhood, my faith; I said my prayers and counted every bead on my imaginary rosary. It was strange but I almost felt peace as I faced death. The gunmen asked for a bullet proof vest and set a deadline for 4 o'clock or they would start killing people. They flipped a coin to decide who to kill first. All the while negotiations were underway between the gunmen and law enforcement. As hostages we were used to communicate their demands often with a gun pointed at our heads.

My mind and heart raced as I felt like a farm animal waiting for slaughter. A couple minutes before 4 o’clock, the phone rang. It was the police notifying them that they were willing to give a bulletproof jacket in exchange for some of the small children and women. I looked outside and saw my car. I thought about breaking through the glass and making a run for it but I could see a SWAT officer posted behind my rear wheel.

The hostage takers began to move back and forth shooting hostages that were tied down, fully visible through the glass walls for the news crews and police to see. After nine hours of this ordeal, a SWAT entry team finally was able to break in through a back door of the store as the hostage takers opened fire on them.

The police shot and killed three of the gunmen and searched for the fourth whom they found wearing a vest lying on the floor injured but alive. We were rescued and witnesses to the murder of two employees a customer, 14 injured hostages, three dead gunmen and the fourth wounded. The surviving gunman was tried and prosecuted and is now serving consecutive life sentences at a California state prison. Many of us had to relive this day through our testimony at his trial. They took 9 hours of my life but an entire life from three individuals. And my prayers will be with those families forever.

I was picked up by my wife and professor and taken to the police dept. for debriefing. It took months of counseling to recover from that day but the experience moved me to dedicate my career to help prevent young people from losing their way as these young men had. They were a part of our school community.

With my wife's support, I went back to school and got my teaching credentials and landed a teaching job. Thanks to the support of my family and friends, I now have 2 beautiful children in college and a wife that brings me joy with every passing moment.

My oldest brother David would always say to me, "Chris, life is simple and that people want to make it complicated."  He was right, the simple was prayer and calm and the complicated was the hostage takers. In the words of our beloved Maya Angelou, "I can be changed by what happens to me but I refused to be reduced by it."

Thank you SPORTNDUCK for your recognition.

Christopher Whitlock

Chris currently teaches 5th graders with a unique style, allowing his students to express themselves fully through interactive teaching methods. His classroom walls tell their story. And that is why we call him "Top Teach.”

PS... The grandchildren of the comeback kid- David Whitlock Sr. continue to excel in sports and academics. Today the old Good Guys store is a Walmart.
 

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