Shining moments: 'You can't take him'

Tonia Zinninger, at the time a member of the Detroit Branch, Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake, offered a poignant illustration of the love a mother has for her child when she prevailed over three would-be car thieves.

Sister Zinninger was returning home to Detroit after attending the Chicago Temple one fall evening in October 1991 and had just picked up John, her 18-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, from the person who was caring for him. They stopped to get gasoline, and John stayed in the car while Sister Zinninger pumped the fuel.Then, in a matter of seconds, Sister Zinninger watched as a man tried to climb into the van. She quickly ran and pulled him away from the door, reached into the van, grabbed the keys and blocked the door.

But her battle wasn't over. Another man hit her in the head with a bottle. Not willing to give up, she threw the bottle back at him. Then two other men grabbed and held her while the other one punched her.

Through it all she kept shouting, "My son's in there. You can't take him!"

"I think the third time I said it, it sunk in and one man said, `forget it,' and started to walk away. But the younger man wouldn't give up," she explained.

The younger man wrestled the keys away from her, but she managed to hang onto him. He finally threw the keys down and ran off, ending the struggle.

Sister Zinninger climbed in the van, where her son was trembling. She ended up with a broken finger, concussion and cuts, and a deeper love for her son.

"There's no way I was going to let them get away with my son inside. I spent 18 years keeping him alive, and you don't try to hurt this mother's child.

"I had been doing work for the Lord that day and I felt like I had been protected. I know I couldn't have fought them off without the help of the Lord. And I knew If I gave up, something would happen to my son. Something kept telling me to not let them in the van."

Sister Zinninger's home teachers gave her a priesthood blessing as she arrived at the hospital, which strengthened her testimony of the power of the priesthood as she quickly recovered from her injuries. She is now a member of the Pioneer Park Ward, Provo Utah South Stake. - Sheridan R. Sheffield

(Another in a series of "Shining Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)

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