My wife and I were robbed at gunpoint Sept. 16 at 8:30 p.m. in Brookland. I was punched in the jaw. Thankfully, my wife was unhurt. We were lucky to have escaped with our lives.

When we called 911 to report the incident, we received this message: "I'm sorry all lines are busy ... please wait for the next available representative to answer your call."

An armed robbery is a frightening experience. We feel violated and just plain scared.

My wife and I no longer feel safe in the proximity of our apartment or of this city. But we are even more frightened by the message at 911. Thankfully our lives didn't hinge on the dexterity of the "next available representative." How many others' lives have and do?

Perhaps we should have known better than to think we could return to our home after nightfall without risking our lives. Like so many of our neighbors, perhaps we too should lock ourselves behind our doors and windows at the fall of the night.

I am a first-year law student at The Catholic University. I'm supposedly learning the fundamentals of our legal system. But here, a different rule of law seems to apply -- the law of the jungle, where the man with the biggest stick or, in this case, the most powerful gun, rules the land.

Welcome to the old West. Welcome to Washington. GARY D. POMERANTZ Washington