Bandages and splints cover her swollen hands, but Rahna Fahringer manages a smile. The mother of two still struggles to overcome the emotional and physical pain of being shot and held hostage for 30 hours by an ex-boyfriend in late November.
Fahringer was shot in the foot by Terrence Abel, 39, after he broke into her home the afternoon of Nov. 30.
When police arrived, Abel barricaded the door and a standoff with authorities ensued. The standoff ended the evening of Dec. 1 when SWAT team officers entered the home and fatally shot Abel.
Fahringer, 46, said that even though she talked to police over the phone while trapped in her bedroom, she couldn’t picture how many law enforcement officers had converged on her home.
“I never saw the light of day once he had me back there,” she said, sitting in a breakfast nook at her Jefferson Avenue home in Brunswick.
Fahringer said she had done everything she could to protect her family after she broke things off with Abel because of his violent tendencies.
On Nov. 26, she obtained a protection order for herself and her children, and she changed the locks on her doors.
“I thought I was safe, but he broke down the door,” she said. “It just wasn’t enough.”
In addition to being shot in her foot, Fahringer sustained injuries to both hands in the final moments of the standoff after police burst through the door.
Officers said Abel had a gun to Fahringer’s head just moments before he was shot and killed.
“I don’t know who fired the shots. I just put my hands up and fell down on the floor when (the police) came in,” she remembered, bowing her head and putting her now-bandaged hands in the air.
A state investigation into the incident has not yet been released, and police haven’t commented on who fired the shots that struck her hands. But Fahringer said it doesn’t make much of a difference.
“I don’t care who shot them, I’m just glad to be alive,” she said.
During the standoff, Fahringer talked to police on the phone. She said she didn’t tell them she had been shot.
“I didn’t want to tell them, because I didn’t want to make (Abel) mad,” she said.
As her rescuers hurried her out of the house, she said they were surprised she was having difficulty moving. They had no idea she had been bleeding heavily from her foot for 30 hours.
“They were trying to get me out the door, saying, “Run, run, but I couldn’t put weight on it.”
Fahringer is getting around better now, and she received an OK from her doctors to start driving again three weeks ago. She continues to work with a physical therapist to increase flexibility in her foot, though she may have some permanent numbness.
The wounds on her hands aren’t healing well either. Fahringer has surgery scheduled Monday to help repair damaged nerves in her right hand, where she has yet to regain the use of two of her fingers.
“It’s frustrating, not having the use of your hands,” she said. “It’s hard to just button your pants, get dressed.”
It also makes it impossible for her to go back to work. Her skills and experience lie in office management, and she can’t type or write.
“It really bothers me that I can’t work,” she said. “I want to do something.”
After being laid off from her job in 2011, Fahringer was able to collect unemployment. She looked for work, but struggled to find any that would come close to supporting her family.
She had just exhausted her unemployment benefits when she landed a job a week before the November incident.
“It was a 20-hour-a-week job, but I was excited to get back to work,” she said. “It was a job at an attorney’s office in Cleveland.”
While Medicaid is covering most of her medical expenses related to recovery, Fahringer said she’s struggling financially to pay her bills.
After she was released from the hospital, Fahringer and her children, Brock, 16 and Blair, 12, stayed with her ex-husband, Mark, and his wife, Dagney Engler.
The children were at school when the November incident began.
She moved back home a few weeks ago, and Mark and Dagney are helping her get the house back in order and to her doctor appointments and surgeries.
“I’m grateful for his wife’s help,” Fahringer said. “She’s been generous with his time helping our family.”
Fahringer moved into her Jefferson Avenue home in 2009 through Habitat for Humanity. She put in more than 300 hours of volunteer time with the organization to get the home, on which she makes monthly payments to Habitat for Humanity.
Moving back in after the incident wasn’t easy, she said.
She and her children are receiving counseling to help heal the emotional scars.
She flashes a big smile when talking about her kids.
“They’re able to help me,” she said. “They’re also at an age where they want to be out with their friends a lot. They act strong like it doesn’t bother them.”
Fahringer said she visited her home with police before the scene was cleaned after she was released from the hospital. She said it was important to see the home to help find closure and move on.
She didn’t see Abel die, and said it was hard to remember exactly how the final moments of the stand-off played out.
Seeing blood on her bed where she spent most of the 30 hours of the standoff helped her cope, she said. She also saw the spots of blood on the floor from her foot as she was helped out.
“I was a little hazy on everything, and I didn’t want to fill that void with something worse than it was,” she said. “When I saw it, it wasn’t that bad.”
Fahringer wants to remain in the house her family has called home, though she admits sometimes it’s a little scary.
“I hear a noise, and I jump a little bit,” she said. “I’m a little more on edge.”
Money running out
Fahringer is awaiting a hearing to apply for disability benefits, but in the meantime, she’s used up most of her insurance money replacing furniture in the house.
She had to replace her bed and a few other items of furniture because they had been damaged by blood and bad memories.
“We just replaced a few things, and we bought used furniture, but that used up what (money) we had,” she said.
In an effort to help Fahringer, her ex-husband and his wife have set up a benevolent fund at FirstMerit Bank.
Mark said he wants people to understand the money will help the family pay their bills and keep up with regular expenses like groceries.
“I just want people to understand the money goes to help her with day-to-day living expenses until she can recover,” he said.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO HELP
If you’d like to make a donation to Rahna Fahringer and her family as they recover from last year’s hostage incident, donations for Rahna M. Fahringer Benevolent Fund are being accepted at all FirstMerit banks.
You can also visit the family’s page at www.facebook.com/SupportRahnaFahringerAndHerChildren.
For other donations, contact Mark Fahringer at (440) 309-0276.