It’s late December. Christmas is on everyone’s mind. Maybe not everyone….. not the parents of the poor children that were shot by a confused young adult. Or any of the people that were within earshot of the gunman that walked into a local mall on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. I know, because I was in that mall.
In the hours and days following that afternoon I have heard the gunshots and seen myself exit out to the cold countless times. Even now just typing the words brings an emotional reaction. When we fled the scene I left my lifeline on the table, my cell phone. The Saturday following the shooting my husband and I returned to the mall to try and recover it. And to see what had taken place. The papers had reported on the incident every day, and I had read every word. When the details came to light, I understood why the gunfire was so loud. And when we walked through the food court I saw what to me was and still is unthinkable. The table we were sitting at to have our lunch was in the first section at the food court entrance, and we were the only ones in that section. If I had been looking over at Macy’s at that moment, I would have seen the gunman enter the mall.
There are so many “If’s” to play in your mind when something like this occurs. And the outcome in every one of those is unthinkable. Something like this is life changing. I am just beginning to sort through all this. My heart goes out to the families who did end up facing the unthinkable, and I am grateful to be able to sit here and write this post.
Christmas isn’t really on my mind, not the way it should be. I am going thru the motions and doing the best I can; my heart isn’t in the spirit of the holiday the way it usually is. I have been silent on my Facebook page for the most part, and haven’t been doing the Twitter updates I usually do for Chance of Rain Trucking.
If there is any good that had come from this experience it is these things: I feel a closer connection to my sister now, we seem to have a different kind of bond now that transcends our differences. * I took the time to talk long-distance to my brother and younger sister, had a quiet conversation with my aunt and my brother-in-law too. These are things we don’t make time for, and should. This is the true message of Christmas; why does it take a brush with the unthinkable to bring it to the forefront?
I know I usually enclose a photo with my posts. In the spirit of a moment of silence, I want to leave you with a blank frame, so you can reflect and think about your loved ones. And be grateful to be with family and friends in the next days and weeks.
My account of that day is below, please read through it if you wish.
Every Christmas I take my sister to the mall to do some shopping. We go to the book store and get gifts for family and treasures for ourselves. We go to JC Penney for clothes at the great holiday prices and pick up more shirts for the men on our holiday list (since they are historically difficult to buy for, there is always room for one more shirt).
Tuesday, 12/11/12 we made a trip out to Clackamas Town Center. We started at the bookstore, then went to JC Penney and started in the ladies department. About 3 pm it was time for lunch. There is one thing you should know about me, I am not really a mall shopper, and definitely not a fan of mall food. But it would be easy, and a treat for my sister since she doesn’t get to go out much. The mall wasn’t very crowded, and we got our food and sat in the middle of an empty section near the entrance arch to the food court.
They say it was 3:25 when he walked into the mall thru Macy’s department store, located across from the food court on the upper level. We were sitting at our table, finishing up our lunch. We heard shouting, and then very loud explosive sounds. It was unmistakable to me that it was gunfire. I think I heard about 8 – 10 rapid fire shots. We looked at each other, got under the table and watched others in the food court exiting out the doors behind us. I grabbed my purse and told her to MOVE … GO …. We ran out the theater entrance into the open air. Halfway out the door, I realized that I had left my cell phone, my connection to my husband and family, on the table.
There were several hours of standing in the cold, then in a building across the street before we felt safe enough to walk across the parking lot to our car and home. I had to use strangers phones to call my husband letting him know we were okay. I knew the news would be on the wind in moments, and didn’t want him to worry. His mom called my cell phone several times, and she worried when she didn’t hear from me tho she did’t think I would be at the mall.
In those moments at the mall, I felt confused and disconnected. I was surprised how leaving my phone behind made me feel adrift. We haven’t recovered the phone, and I don’t think we will. I know it’s only a device, but in those moments I needed to feel connected. Nothing about how I feel now makes sense to me. In time the replay of those minutes will fade, but I will never forget.