ATLANTA — Two parents and their eight children, who were moving to Gwinnett County from North Carolina, are stunned after thieves stole their U-Haul truck containing almost everything they own.
Police later found the U-Haul, abandoned.
It will be Wednesday at the earliest before the family can find out if the thieves left behind any of their belongings inside the truck.
The children’s mother, Shanna Sanon, said Tuesday that when she found out that thieves stole their U-Haul, “I just broke down in tears.”
The family woke up Friday morning, at their hotel on Pleasant Hill Road off of I-85, to see that their U-Haul moving van was gone from the parking lot.
They had the truck’s keys, but somehow the thieves were able to drive the truck away, the largest model U-Haul has available for rent-- 26 feet long--along with almost everything the Sanons own and cherish inside.
“What’s on that truck is all our memories,” irreplaceable family keepsakes, Shanna said.
They had just driven the truck to Gwinnett County. The family is relocating from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Shanna and her husband have new jobs, and were about move their children, ages three to 14, into their new home in Lawrenceville.
Just after 1:00 a.m. Friday, a hotel security camera recorded video of the U-Haul driving away from the hotel; the cameras did not record images of the thieves.
“I was devastated,” Shanna said. “I just immediately called my mom and we were just crying together on the phone as to how could this happen to us?”
And then she and her husband had to tell their children.
“I've never felt the pain like that in my life. For any mother out there, I've never felt that before. To have to see the disappointment in my children's faces and the pain, they were crying and it was a mess,” Shanna explained.
Then on Sunday, 24 miles from their hotel, Atlanta police found the truck abandoned; it was on Fayetteville Road at I-20, in southeast Atlanta.
The truck is now in a police impound lot.
Police said the thieves did try to break into it, and that it appeared some household items may still be inside of it.
The Sanons are waiting for U-Haul to take possession of the truck from impound, so they can get to it and find out what’s there and what’s gone.
“I'm prayed up,” Shanna said. “That's how I'm doing, I'm just trying to be strong for my eight kids. So every mom knows that we are the light of the home, so I have no space to break down. I've already had my moments this weekend, and, you know, now I’m just prayed up.”
As they wait to move into their new home, the Sanons have already begun working at their new jobs; and they’ve enrolled their children in Gwinnett County public schools.
“I’m a strict mom,” she said, “the kids have been going to school, they still have to get that education.”
Just before the truck was found, and fearing the worst, Shanna started an online fundraiser to help get her family back on their feet quickly.
She said Tuesday that if their belongings are still on the truck, she will ask the donors if they’re okay with her giving the money to charities.
And now, Shanna said, along with being anxious for her children, she is praying for the thieves, who are on the run.
“I, first of all, was angry. But now I'm just like, it has to be something huge for someone to want to steal a truck. You don't know if they needed to feed their family, so actually I feel sorry," she said Tuesday. "The community has to do something about making sure that other people are okay...it's okay to reach out to your neighbor and say, ‘do you need some shoes, do you need some clothes, do you need any help?’ So that's what I want people to know.”
U-Haul is promising to help the family recover whatever belongings they can as soon as Wednesday.