The Stolen U-Haul Story : A Year Later

Stolen U-Haul Chase

Note: This is not actual footage of our stolen U-Haul. I just liked that it had Chase in the title.

Ah, Facebook memories. I was reminded today that it has been exactly one year since possibly the craziest story of our life happened. In some ways, it still doesn’t seem real, like maybe we all dreamed it happened. Except that the sheer number of people having the same simultaneous dream is a bit unlikely and the fact that a year later we are still asking “Where is the … Oh yeah…it was on the U-Haul truck. Whomp.” Over the last year I’ve retold this story what seems like hundreds of times as continue to encounter strangers introducing themselves with “Aren’t you the family that had your U-Haul Stolen?” Indeed we are. Fame never seems to come in the packaging you expect.

The Stolen U-Haul : A Year Later

For those of you just joining this story: 

May 28, 2017 We were finally packed up ready to move from Austin to Dallas, following a long six month separation of what I referred to as “becoming the weekend wife”. Randall had been working at his new position in Dallas coming home for about 36 hours each weekend and with the school year ending we were finally able to join him. After a final goodbye party from our neighborhood the night before, we woke up early to get coffee before heading out on the stretch of highway between Austin and Dallas. We had packed all of our belongings inside the U-Haul that we had rented with the exception of a small suitcase for each of us for immediate toiletries and clothing.

I walked out into the driveway and something felt off. You would think that I would instantly realize a ginormous moving truck was missing but no…. because who has their moving truck stolen from their driveway?? Apparently, we do.

WHO STEALS A U-HAUL????!?!!

Still not dawning on me that all our truck is actually missing, I casually yell back inside asking Randall where he moved the truck. “Ha, ha. Very funny, babe.” He thinks I’m joking with him. The neighborhood we lived in was a very safe, affluent master-planned suburban community. It was the kind of place that had always felt like living inside a movie because it was so pleasant. Our neighbors had joked the night before about not letting us leave. I wondered if they’ve played a joke on us and walk to the end of the driveway looking up and down the street to see if I can see anything…… you know, like maybe a GIANT truck with all our earthly possessions.

Nope. Now I’m starting to panic a little.

As it turned out, the U-Haul really WAS stolen with everything we owned safely packed up inside. We were living a real life version of the Grinch that stole Christmas.  So many thoughts raced through our minds in the hours that followed. The toughest one was how would we wake up our children and tell them every thing they owned was gone. It was going to be a tough move for them leaving their friends and a city they loved already. We had done everything to make the move as comfortable as possible and yet through all our best laid plans, here we were. Literally starting over from zero. We had already begun to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle but this was quite a bit more minimalist that we were intending.

We posted a status update with description of the truck on Facebook in case anyone in the community happened to see it on the highway or surrounding areas. Then we went to console our children, call the police, and figure out what you do when someone steals your U-Haul. Again, WHO STEALS A U-HAUL??? That Facebook post was probably the most viral piece of social content we’ve ever had. You just never know when you’re gonna hit it big so always wear clean underwear kids.

The outpouring of love and concern we received from friends, family, strangers was overwhelming. Stitchfix reached out to offer my husband and I each a generous credit to rebuild our wardrobes. Both of us are still loyal Stitchfix subscribers to this day. Neighbors brought gift cards to Kaitlyn and Sebastian so they could buy new clothes and shoes, since they each literally only had the shoes they had packed to move in. We had people bringing food and desperately wanting to know how they could help. We felt blessed enough to have our family, health, roof over our heads and both of us were gainfully employed. Even when this Grinch took our things we still had everything that mattered most.

After we had done all we could do with police reports and calls to insurance offices, most of which were closed because of the holiday weekend, we sort of went on with life as best we could. Friends invited the kids over to swim and hangout so they wouldn’t be sitting in an empty house. Through the chaos we tried to decide if I would still attend work trip I had coming up the next week. There was a comfortable bed at a very nice hotel in Portland after all and currently we didn’t own anything more luxurious than an air-mattress. Sorry fam, you’re on your own. Kidding, sort of…. I was still going but they would be staying with family nearby who had extra beds.

Did They Ever Find the Stolen U-Haul?

The second most asked question is “Did They Ever Find the Stolen U-Haul?”  Eventually, yes. Every day for five days, we called to check in with the police investigator who was assigned to this. The had pulled the street cameras to see if they could figure out which direction the thieves had gone and no sign of the truck. Finally, the investigator being as honest as he could told us not to get our hopes up, there was little chance of it being returned. We were devastated over the loss of baby pictures, beloved stuffed animals, and sentimental kindergarten hand-print paintings gone forever.

On day five, Randall called me during my trip telling me he had received a call from someone who believed he had found our stolen U-Haul. He was going to verify and let me know soon. Sure enough, it was our U-Haul with a good deal of our belongings still remaining. The thieves had driven only about three miles from our neighborhood to an apartment complex where they broke the lock off the back. This is why the truck wasn’t seen on any major street cameras. Over the next three days they came back and forth to the truck sorting through what was of value to them to sell, pawn, etc. After that they abandoned it which when the apartment maintenance manager noticed the back of the U-Haul truck ajar.

We had to get another U-Haul truck to transfer what was left. If we had tried to drive that one we could have been pulled over and arrested for stealing our own things. For a few weeks after that we got calls from people all over Austin finding random boxes that the thieves had discarded in dumpsters. I guess the thieves were disappointed we didn’t have more valuable things to pawn. Either way, the people of Austin are really some of the best and went above and beyond to get as much back to us as possible.

Lessons Learned from the Stolen U-Haul

This weekend I surveyed the members of our family on what the most valuable lesson they learned from this was. A year later I’m still really impressed with the people I get to live with and call mine. Here were the responses:

Kaityln : “Take the time to appreciate the things you have and the people in your life. When that happened so many people donated things or gave us things to help. They treated us like family and there was no biological obligation to do so. It was really wonderful “

Sebastian “Always pack a second bag to keep with you.” 

Randall : “I’m definitely more cautious now. Haha. More importantly the actions of a couple bad people were overshadowed by the immense number of good people wanting to help. There really is more good in the world than bad.” 

Alice: “One of the most important keys to resiliency is having a strong community. Online and in person, we had developed a stronger community than I ever knew existed. We get through the hard times because of the people in our lives. People are always more important than things.” 

 

Have you ever known someone who has had a moving vehicle stolen? Would you be interested in knowing how to have a safer self-move experience? We’ve learned a lot about what to do. Would you be interested in a future post listing that info? 

 

Comments

  1. I was just looking at my OWN Facebook memories from a year ago and went to see what ever did happen after that experience! I’m so glad to hear it all turned out okay and you’re back on our feet! Strange how you can learn so much from such a horrible experience isn’t it?

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