From AJC archives: 'I guess it just wasn't my day to die'

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 12, 2005.

Staff writer Don O'Briant, who was carjacked Friday morning, was taken to Atlanta Medical Center, where he received 15 stitches in his forehead above his left eye. He joked at a news conference Friday that, when confronted by a gunman believed to be Brian Nichols, he refused to get into the trunk of his car because it was too full of junk.

The search Friday centered on finding O'Briant's green Honda Accord. O'Briant, 62, of Midtown, is a 31-year veteran of the Journal-Constitution, where he covers books and media.

It's funny how your mind goes through all these scenarios. How am I going to get out of this? Do I run now? Do I talk to him? Is he gonna shoot me and leave me lying here?

When it was going on, I thought I was just involved in a routine carjacking. I had no idea he'd just killed people. I didn't learn about all that until I was being treated at the hospital later in the day.

Maybe because it was so quick, your whole life doesn't flash before your eyes.

I guess it just wasn't my day to die.

I had just parked my car in the parking lot behind the Chinese restaurant at the corner of Spring Street and Marietta Street and was going to work, a little after 9 a.m.

This person pulled in beside me, and I noticed that he had pulled into a handicapped spot. He was a young, athletic-looking man, and he didn't have a shirt on, but I figured he was probably in town for the basketball tournament.

First he asked how to get to Lenox Square. So I started giving him directions.

Then he pulled a gun and said, "Give me your keys or I'll kill you!"

I gave him the keys, and then he said, "Get in the trunk."

I said no. I thought maybe I was going to be killed, but I wasn't going to get in the trunk.

It just seemed so surreal. I was thinking, "This doesn't happen in real life." Your first emotion is one of disbelief, followed quickly by sheer terror and trying to figure out how to get away without being shot. But I figured it was better to be shot at while I was running than to just stand there and be executed.

I stepped back and turned to run, and that's when he hit me in the head with his gun. I fell down, and I got up and collided with a Dumpster. I got up again and ran.

I scrambled into the street, waiting for the shots to come, but they didn't come.

I couldn't see, because blood was coming out all over my eye. I went to the Chinese restaurant and banged on the door, but there was no one there. So I started out into Marietta Street, and that's when I ran into co-worker Drew Jubera.

He took me to the Cone Street garage a couple blocks away, where police were investigating the earlier carjacking. I gave police a description of the man, and then an ambulance took me to Atlanta Medical Center.

I'm extremely lucky. But I've seen enough cop shows and I know: You don't get in the trunk.