CHICAGO (CBS) — “I call my husband my hero today.”

That’s Illinois State Sen. Kimberly Lightford’s takeaway, after she and her husband were carjacked at gunpoint Tuesday night, after they had just gone shopping for Christmas gifts for a toy giveaway for children in her district.

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Lightford, the Illinois Senate Majority Leader, said she and her husband had pulled up to a friend’s home to drop her off in west suburban Broadview on Tuesday night, when another car pulled up alongside them.

“I was telling her ‘Merry Christmas, be safe,’ and a car pulled up on the left of us,” Lightford said. “Three guys just hopped out with guns, and they demanded that we get out the car, and they put my husband on the ground, and they had me over on the other side. I don’t know that I ever had an idea of what to do in that instance, so I just gave them what they asked for, and they took everything.”

Lightford said, in that moment, nothing else mattered but making sure she and her husband were safe.

“I begged them not to shoot us, and I begged them not to shoot my husband, not to shoot me. I told them to take whatever they want. They took everything off me that I had of value, and I offered the car, and my husband slid them the keys,” she said.

At that point, Lightford said her husband – who has a concealed carry license – told her to run.

“I ran reluctantly, because I didn’t want to leave him there. And it was a scary run, because now shots are being fired. I thought for sure they were going to shoot me down. So it was difficult,” Lightford said.

After the carjackers started shooting, Lightford said her husband returned fire.

“I think they were shooting at my husband and me, and lucky enough my husband is conceal and carry, and he was able to protect us,” she said. “He handled us, and he saved us. I call my husband my hero today.”

Meantime, the friend she had dropped off called police, who showed up a short time later, but not before the carjackers fled the scene in her SUV, which was packed with gifts for a toy giveaway on Thursday at Proviso West High School.

With those toys stolen, Lightford said she went to Walmart late Wednesday night to buy more.

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“I had some last-minute items to pick up, so I closed out Wal-Mart at 11 o’clock last night, because the night before I was being held up at gunpoint. So it kind of threw my schedule off a little bit, but I’ve never had so much fun at Wal-Mart,” she said.

Lightford said it was “very therapeutic” to take part in the toy giveaway on Thursday at Proviso west.

“I feel wonderful,” she said. “For me, as a little girl, Christmas has always just brought so much joy and happiness, and I love giving that to other children. So my entire time shopping was identifying specific requests from kids. Instead of just giving them anything, I wanted to give them what they actually asked for on their wish list. So it was a good time.”

While Lightford said she is feeling “much better” two days after the carjacking, she still finds herself occasionally reliving what happened.

“I didn’t realize what a traumatic event could do in an adult. You know, I’ve had trauma as a child, and as a young adult, but this is my first experience to be just totally frightened,” she said. “It’s difficult. When you close your eyes, you may see a gun in your face, or a knot in your stomach, a little queasy. I’m not eating much, but I’m resilient. That’s what I try to teach our children, especially through the pandemic, to just remain resilient. A lot of them have lost grandparents and family members. So we’re here to just lift each other up. So I think today will be wonderful for me. I can stay focused on the subject at hand, and just enjoy it.”

She said the carjacking served as a reminder that something like that can happen to anyone.

“I’ve always remained humble in this position because it’s the people who selected me to serve, and I’m no different than them. I’m not afraid of my community. I’m a public servant, so I’m going to be out in the community, and I’m not going to let this deter the work that I want to do for people,” “I can’t say it enough. It was traumatic. My husband and I survived it. We’re happy to be alive, and if nothing else, I just have a new take on life. I’ll just live my life to the fullest the rest of my life,”

While there have not yet been any arrests in the carjacking, as reported by CBS 2’s Megan Hickey, Lightford said the stolen car was recovered Wednesday morning on the South Side of Chicago.

Lightford said she and her husband were using a loaner car from a dealership while her own car was being serviced, so she’s had to ask the dealership to be patient while the car is impounded and processed for evidence.

“So the dealership isn’t so happy right now, but I’ve asked them to just be patient, because there is an investigation going on,” she said.

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Lightford was instrumental in passing legislation to end cash bail and other restrictions on pretrial detention earlier this year. On Thursday, Lightford said lawmakers need to focus on providing resources to the population of young men that is often responsible for carjackings.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff