TYLER, Texas — On a warm Thursday evening at Rose Rudman Park, Arielle Lynd made a choice. That choice exemplified her courage and grit.
That evening, Arielle Lynd chose not to be a victim.
March 14 was one of many runs Arielle took in Rose Rudman Park. Over the innumerable runs through the park, they were rarely out of the ordinary.
“I ran in this park all the time," Lynd said. "I usually come about 4 o’clock. It was a little later that evening. I got here about 6:45, and I knew I had a small bracket of time to get my run in."
As Arielle began to finish her evening run, she felt the uncomfortable feeling that somebody was following her.
“When I rounded the corner, I saw him sitting at the bench, and he was just bouncing," Lynd said. "I just felt something evil, so I put my headphones on and I just booked it."
Before she knew it, the man, armed with a knife, was on top of her, trying to pull her into a wooded area.
"He had me from the neck up, and I was just pulling his arms as much as I could, and just flailing my legs," Lynd recalled. "Any moment that I had, I just screamed as loud as I could."
Rather than submit to him, Arielle fought back with the most amount of energy she could muster. As the man dragged her into the wooded area, she refused to back down. Despite the blade of the knife scratching at her neck, Arielle summoned the grit to continue the fight.
"There was a moment when I felt this could be it, that I was going to die. I just felt something ignite in me. If I was going to die, I was not going to go down easy," Lynd said. "I just kicked him, and I screamed. He started doing his thing, and I just kicked him with all my might."
The man made it abundantly clear what he wanted. Police say during the attack, the man attempted to remove her clothes.
However, the man got more than he bargained for with Arielle. As the sister of a U.S. Marine and with plenty of experience fighting back, the determined woman refused to give in to his advances.
"He started doing his thing, and I just kicked him with all my might. I grabbed the knife away from him," Lynd said. "I pulled it away, and I threw it to the right. I don’t know if my screams scared him off or he was tired of being kicked, but he got up and he ran off.”
Lynd was now alone, and it was getting darker. At some point during the struggle, police say the man took her cell phone and threw it out of sight.
Seconds felt like ages as Arielle, shaken and hurt but unbroken, called out for help.
"I made my way up to the sidewalk. And that was when a girl ran around the corner. She said she saw him run off and she heard me screaming, and she came to me,” Lynd said. "It was just this immediate flood like, ‘I’m okay. Somebody is here. Somebody’s got me.’ And she stayed with me until the police came.”
As police arrived on the scene and began their investigation, Arielle started a new fight: Coping with the traumatic experience she thought would never happen to her.
"I constantly felt like somebody was looking at me. It was just a horrible feeling, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. Nobody should have to be afraid to walk from their car to the garage," Lynd explained. "The next few days I didn’t leave the house."
Once again, Arielle defiantly refused to be broken by the events of that night. Rather than surrender to paranoia and fear, she found strength she says she did not know she had.
"I want women to not be afraid. We shouldn’t have to be afraid," Lynd said. "I will be back in this park as soon as I possibly can. It’s going to take me a minute to feel comfortable to ran again by myself. But I will run again by myself because there’s no reason of why I shouldn’t be able to do that."
Even though her strength cannot be measured, even Arielle admits she could not have survived this period of her life alone without the help of others.
“It’s absolutely incredible, just seeing everybody come together and fight for something that needs to be changed. The amount of love and support that has been flooding through my social media account is just really what’s helped keep me going and not fall into a dark pit," Lynd said. "I refuse to let myself get there. I won’t let him take that away from me more than he’s already tried.”
On Wednesday, police announced the arrest of James Earl Roberts Jr. and charged him with aggravated kidnapping for the attack on Arielle.
"When [police] called me yesterday, it was like this huge relief off of my heart, just a huge weight lifted,” Lynd said. "Incredible amount of love and thanks to Andy Erbaugh and his team, and the constant work that they did. Just keeping me involved as much as possible and letting me know as they went along. I just owe an eternal amount of great and thanks to them.”
Arielle says there may be a ray of light to come from such a terrifying moment in her life. She says the attack gave her a new purpose in life: To use the strength and courage she found in her fight to inspire and encourage other women who may find themselves in that same situation.
"I would be absolutely honored to be a voice for women who maybe can’t find that voice," Lynd said. "I just want women to know that always be aware but never be afraid. And that’s kind of been my slogan in a sense. I just want women to not feel like they always have to be afraid.”