Photo: The Daily Beast

On Monday, while the excitement of the first votes in the Iowa Caucus filled Des Moines, MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Parry faced another form of anxiety — fear.

Harris-Perry and a group of her students from Wake Forest University traveled to Iowa in order the watch the caucus unfold as a part of the university’s program “Wake The Vote.” While watching the events of that evening take place on the hotel lobby’s television, she noticed a man standing uncomfortably close to her.

He began their conversation with a simple question regarding what she taught, but his questioning quickly escalated when he asked her, “What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC.”

As Harris-Perry attempted to explain her position, the man cut her off and his voice grew angrier as he questioned how they could choose her for such a job. In that moment, she knew that this stranger approached her reason beyond just wanting to talk.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this.” Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why.

In her profound recounting of the experience, Harris-Perry acknowledges that it was the thought of her students that spurred her reaction to the threat. Protecting her students from what could have been a traumatic scene motivated her to make a move. As Harris-Perry created a noticeable distance between her and the man, her friend recognized something was not right and also put herself between the two. Both she and her friend began to make a scene and he turned, ran out, jumped in his car, and drove off.

Harris-Perry thanks her students for being the drive she needed to make a move. They may not have recognized at that moment what was transpiring, but in her eyes they saved her life.