Now, clutching the .38 revolver, Melinda Herman was in the middle of a heart-pounding crisis inside her own home.
She had already locked multiple doors before she and her children took refuge in an adjacent-room attic -- the kind with a small door that you have to bend down to go through.
The intruder had used the crowbar to break through the front door and then two other doors upstairs, and she could hear him coming closer and closer.
On the phone, Donnie Herman calmly instructed his wife about the use of the weapon she had practiced on.
"Remember everything I showed you. Everything I taught you," he told her, and he reassured her that help was on the way.
Then it happened.
"She shot him. She's shooting him. She's shooting him. She's shooting him. She's shooting him. ... Shoot him again! Shoot him!" Donnie Herman said as the 911 dispatcher listened.
He then lost phone contact with his wife and children. His anguish and the pain of not knowing what had happened may be etched in his mind for eternity. But they were safe.
He learned later that his wife fired all six shots, and hit the intruder with all but one bullet.
Not realizing she was out of ammunition, she ordered the man to stay on the floor as he bled. She then fled the house with her children.
Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman -- whose office responded to the shooting at the Hermans' home -- said he believes the mother and her two children were in a life-and-death situation and she had no choice but to exercise her constitutional right to self-defense.
"Had it not turned out the way that it did, I would possibly be working a triple homicide, not having a clue as to who it is we're looking for," he told CNN.
Despite being shot five times, the suspect, identified as Paul Ali Slater, still managed to get back into his SUV, but he drove off the road and crashed a short distance away.
He remains hospitalized. Due to privacy laws, the hospital cannot divulge any information on his condition.
But the controversy continues. Home gun ownership and self-defense will always be controversial.
The Hermans' story of self-defense is being used by the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America to make their point to the White House and Congress about gun ownership.
But Donnie Herman has told people he's not interested in being a poster boy for anyone. He has not yet responded to CNN's request for an interview with him and his wife.
"My wife is a hero. She protected her kids. She did what she was supposed to do as a responsible parent and gun owner," Herman told CNN affiliate WSB.
Yet it's unclear whether the benefits of having a loaded and readily available gun in one's home outweigh the drawbacks.
"It's more common for an armed homeowner in the United States to be a victim of suicide, homicide, assault or an accidental shooting than it is for that person to shoot an intruder," according to Dr. Arthur Kellermann, a senior health policy analyst at Rand Corporation, a non-partisan think tank.