LAWRENCE — It happened quickly, just after midnight at the railroad overpass on Andover Street – a thud near the passenger-side door that made Andrea Esteves duck and her Ford Focus swerve.
Alone in the car on her way home to Derry, Esteves wanted to find a well-lit parking lot before getting out to see what had just happened. She ended up directly in front of the entrance to 7-Eleven, where she knew there would be people within feet.
"My windshield was smashed," she said. "I had a piece of rock wedged in there, a nice big one."
But there's no rock ledge where she was, leading her to believe that what happened was intentional.
"Someone threw something from about 15 feet up. I was driving 20 mph, I was a nice target for them. The force of the rock hitting my windshield, it had to have been thrown," Esteves said. "This is an old iron bridge we're talking about. There are no rocks there. It came out of the sky."
She's warning the community that they should be wary of the same thing happening to them.
"Whoever did this could have been ducked down after they threw the rock," she said. "If I stopped there on the dark road and got out of the car, what would have happened to me? Were they just trying to get me out of the car?"
Shaken up by the ordeal, Esteves reported it to police right away and followed up in the morning with Mayor Daniel Rivera's office, as well as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police.
Police said they occasionally get reports like this, typically during the warmer months.
Since Esteves' encounter, police have increased foot and bike patrols in the area of the railroad tracks, they said.
"They've got the opioid epidemic and all that stuff. I get it. They have limited resources," Esteves said. "I just want the public to be aware of what's going on. I don't want anyone else hurt or killed."
The experience was traumatizing, she said, and will prevent her from going under bridges anytime soon.
"I've got to change my route, that's all I know for now," she said. "This isn't about my car at all. I don't care about that. I care that no one else ends up worse off because of something like this."