The minutes stretched so long they seemed infinite.
So long, says Joseph Berman, that images of his 9-year-old daughter began to flash through his mind. "I thought I was going to die. I just was worried for my daughter," Berman said. "If anything were to happen to me, you know, what's gonna happen? My daughter's gonna grow up without a father?"
The father and caretaker of two elderly parents was on his way to transfer money between two banks on Monday afternoon, police said, when he became the victim of a carjacking.
Berman had parked his car at Wachovia Bank on west Okeechobee Boulevard in suburban West Palm Beach. Berman left his doors unlocked while he went to cash a check. It was during those few minutes that a man apparently snuck into the backseat of his car.
Berman didn't notice the man until he got back into the car to drive to the second bank. The man flashed a semi-automatic handgun and told Berman to hand over the cash and drive.
"I was scared to death. I never had anything like that happen to me," Berman said. "A million things go through your mind. It was really tough."
Berman says he was forced to drive for several miles all while the carjacker threatened him.
"I have a gun, I'm gonna shoot you if you try anything," Berman remembers the carjacker saying. "I want your money and don't turn around. He actually ordered me to break the rear view mirror off the car," Berman said, so that he wouldn't be able to later identify the carjacker.
After several miles on the road, Berman drove onto Stacy Street North, a dirt road that was virtually deserted at the time. It was at that moment he realized this was his chance to escape.
"I saw some trash and debris in front of me, and, while I'm accelerating, I started going for my seatbelt in the doo,r and I started bailing out," he said.
Berman ran and eventually called 911 when he felt he wasn't in danger anymore.
Sheriff's office K-9 units scoured the area for a suspect but couldn't find one. As of late Tuesday, a suspect remained at large.
Berman says he feels lucky to be alive but is unsure what his family will do to make up for the stolen cash. The $600 came from his mother's SSI check and was intended for the family's rent. She has terminal cancer, and the family is on a fixed income.
Still, with his 9 year old playing with a small bouncing ball nearby, Berman said he is thankful the outcome of his ordeal wasn't worse.