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When Our Car Was Broken into at a Park - Our Story and Advice We Can Share

(This happened to us in April 2023. It took me a bit of time to process all of this incident and the aftermath, so this was broken up into multiple posts on our social media accounts. However, for the ease of this being a resource for others who may have been through this horror, I've condensed everything now into this one post.)

(Post 1)

This was not the post I was hoping to share today, but here we are. Earlier this week, Ruth and I were out for a short hike at Umstead State Park, and we came back to find 2 windows smashed out on our car, everything rummaged through, and a few items wantonly thrown on the ground. We had only been out for an hour on the dot.


I’m glad we did, because there was nothing for these criminals to take except Ruth’s baby wipes. (Yeah, that’s really all they took - a ranger found them thrown out on a park road. Who knows why. It’s the only thing I can laugh about in this situation.)

I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, here is what you should do next:

1a. Take photos.

1b. If your wallet was stolen, call and cancel/put a hold on anything like debit or credit cards immediately. We thankfully were not in this situation.

2. Car insurance. If you have a family member you can call, like a spouse, who has your car insurance info, speak with them first so they can call your car insurance company and get the ball rolling to get you a tow or a glass replacement appointment. This can get moved down the to-do list, but if you have someone, it will be helpful to have them working on this for you while you are dealing with someone from the park or with the police. Figuring out what we were going to do with the car took the longest of this whole process, and Ruth and I waited a few hours at the park because of it, even with having my husband on the case.

3. Contact a park employee, if possible. If you’re at a state park like we were, contact the park’s visitor’s center. I was in the process of Googling to get that number when I saw a park ranger drive by and I flagged them down. If you’re at any other type of park that might have employees on site, like one of Wake County’s parks, try to find that contact info. Any park employee or contact person is a good place to start. Parks may also want to keep track of these incidents, and our park ranger took information for their records. They are also helpful if you need water or other necessities.

4. File a police report online or contact the local police via their non-emergency line. Our park ranger had the info for us to file a police report online with the Raleigh PD, and this is actually the preferred way for RPD since the report goes right into their system. The Raleigh PD website is on the 3rd photo here, which is the card the ranger gave us. Other police or sheriff’s departments might also have this option available, but if not, you can always call. Make sure to get the report number for your car insurance.

5. Circle back with car insurance/repair people. Hopefully there will be some movement here while you’ve been working out the reporting details, and you’ll be able to decide what to do with your car.

Leave valuables at home before going to a park. Bring your wallet with you when you are in the park. If you can, make sure there is nothing attractive that looks like it might hold a wallet or money visible in your car.

I think this last part is especially hard for parents of little kids like us because I have no where to leave Ruth’s diaper bag EXCEPT the car. 🤷‍♀️

Anyway, just take the signs seriously.

I’m going to make at least one more post about the aftermath of the incident.

Last, but certainly not least, we want to give the biggest shoutout to Ranger Sheila, who cleaned a majority of the broken glass out of our car for me while I sat with Ruth and filed the police report, and to Ranger Nick who came by to check on us later and hooked us up with some special milkweed seeds. You both made this awful experience better.

Stay safe out there, friends. 💚

(Post 2)

The Aftermath - Part 1

You’ve filed a police report, you’ve contacted the park, you’re in touch with your car insurance.

Now what?

You still have a car full of glass with busted out windows. There are basically 2 decisions you have to deal with next:

1. How are you getting you and your kids home?

2. What are you doing with your car?

I feel like here, I have less a list of advice, and more just what we did since there are multiple decisions within these big umbrella topics that you have to make based on your circumstances. This is just our story.

“I don’t understand why we just can’t get the car towed somewhere?!” This is what I repeated over and over to my husband on the phone. It makes sense, right? Just tow it to a glass place, they fix it, done.


The backlog for car repair is REAL these days, and glass is no exception. Our car insurance has a relationship with Safelite, and the wait was weeks. You can’t just get a tow to a glass place because they have no room to store your car and no one is going to be able to help you same day. So this is why the tow was out for us. If you’re planning to tow, you’ll need 1 to your home, and 1 later to the glass shop. OR there are some glass places that will come to your home, so you might only need 1 tow in that instance.

What we ended up doing was my husband and mother-in-law came to pick us up (of course the battery in our second car was dead on this day, or else Hubbs just would have come on his own). My husband covered as much of his body as possible - wore long sleeves and pants, as well as sunglasses - and drove the car back to our house. He probably also should have brought a towel to sit on, but we didn’t think of that in time. He was okay, but this made me incredibly nervous for obvious reasons.

The next obstacle was Ruth’s car seat. Even though the window directly by her seat was not broken, her car seat had glass all over it. Peter’s car seat was thankfully far enough away that it was still usable. I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.

Thank God, we all made it home in 1 piece, but now we had to figure out where we were getting the car fixed. I honestly felt let down by my car insurance company here. Because we didn’t want to wait weeks for Safelite, they just gave us a list of other approved places and were like here you go, you’re on your own.

My husband called all over and found a place that would take us the next day. While they fixed it the next day, that was the only positive thing about that experience. They put in a piece of tinted glass for our back quarter panel when the other piece was untinted, then tried to blame it on our insurance saying they put in the work order tinted glass - insurance confirmed no such thing happened. They told us they were going to give the car a “courtesy vacuum” and there was literally still large chunks of glass everywhere, and I even cut my hand on a piece of glass. They got window adhesive on Ruth’s car seat. (Photos 2 & 3 here - I wasn’t expecting a detailing, but the large bits of glass make it pretty clear no vacuum touched this vehicle.) It was horrific, but at least we had our car back with all windows intact.

Going to stop here for now, but Part 2 is coming, and it’s a little bit happier so stay tuned.

(Post 3)

The Aftermath - Part 2 - A Gratitude Post

This post today is a continuation of the reality of having our car broken into, but moreso than that, this is a post of GRATITUDE for 2 businesses that went above and beyond for us.

After I tried to take a shop-vac to Ruth’s car seat, it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to get out all the tiny glass shards. I figured I probably didn’t need to replace the whole car seat, just the seat covers. I couldn’t find a place anywhere to buy those replacement pieces, so I called Graco Children's Products.

I explained to the Graco employee that my car was broken into, windows smashed, and now I was looking for replacement pieces. The woman was incredibly sympathetic and then told me that they’d be happy to send me a new car seat. “A whole new seat?” “Yes.” “Wait… like, I don’t have to pay for it?” “No, this will be a complimentary exchange. I’ll just need a little bit of information from you, but it’s on us.”

I cried. I literally sobbed my thank yous into the phone. We got the brand new car seat (pictured here) in a week. We cannot thank Graco enough for this and valuing the safety of our daughter.

Our second thank you is to Bunkey’s Car Wash in Cary. The entire inside of our car had to be detailed due to the many tiny shards of glass everywhere. Normally a detailing takes about 3 hours. They worked on our car ALL. DAY. They only charged us a $25 extra fee from their regular rate (which was told to me up front and agreed upon) since they would need to clean their machines afterward. No extra fee was assessed even though it took over double the time to clean our car because there was so much glass. My car felt like a million bucks driving out of there. It hasn’t been that clean since the day we bought it. I’m planning to talk about this in my final post, but one of the hardest parts of this experience was the fear of unseen shards of glass in our car cutting or hurting my family. Bunkey’s did more than clean my car, they gave me peace of mind about this, which was priceless.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to these businesses.

Final post on this saga coming soon.

(Post 4)

The Aftermath - Part 4 - The End… But Not Really

The total amount of money we’ve shelled out from this incident has been ~$800. Deductible for our car insurance claim to replace the window, car detailing, replacing and throwing away things damaged by glass, etc. It could have been much higher. If we hadn’t been gifted the new car seat for Ruth, if our insurance deductible was higher, if we didn’t have family to come get us and drive our car and needed a tow instead, if we had to miss work - these all shoot the number into the thousands. This itself is a crazy burden.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more hiding under the surface.

The anxiety. For a while, I had an intense fear that my children were going to find that one minuscule shard of glass left and it would get wedged in a finger or toe. We haven’t used our stroller since the incident since it had glass on it. Every prick on my skin - like bumping into a corner of a box sitting on the floor - I thought was glass.

The anger. I’ve had some out-of-character scorched-earth rage, let me tell you. What the !@&* are we doing about crime in this city?! Why is this happening to people who just want to enjoy the outdoors?! LOCK EM’ ALL UP! 🤬😤 (Have never heard anything, not even a follow up call, from Raleigh PD on our police report, by the way.)

The stress. I recently had some headaches that were unusual and sent me to the ER. Thank God, tests came back with nothing notable. The doctor goes, “Have you had any unusual stress in your life lately?” Uh. Yeah.

And besides for all this, I still find glass. Every day. Apparently when you have a window smashed out and replaced, tons of tiny shards are stuck in the door and just work their way out over time. I find pieces like the ones in these photos on my garage floor every day. I found some under my passenger seat the first day we went back out to a park. I found one IN MY KITCHENAID MIXER BOWL, which stays in my pantry closet and I can only imagine that something I bought at the grocery store carried that small shard into the house with it and then it fell into the bowl after I put the item in the pantry.

So yeah, things are getting better, but at this point, it feels like it never ends. I hesitated to share this final post, to go too deeply into this, because I absolutely do not want to scare people away from parks. But at the same time, I think this information is important. This story is not complete without this last chunk of the saga, and letting you know that if this, God-forbid, happens to you, it’s okay and normal if you feel the hit in more than just your wallet.

Even with all this, we are undeterred from exploring parks, and I will still be sharing our Umstead adventures that we chronicled before the break in. We hope you feel similarly about our beautiful parks and will continue to join us on this adventure.

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