After the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre I gathered my family close and thanked God for their safety. I prayed I would never suffer the uncertainty of a loved one’s fate.
Last Wednesday, December 26, my daughter and I were on our way to pick up a family member at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento. As we were driving along a river road to the mall I heard sirens coming up behind me and pulled over to the right. A police car flew past with lights flashing and sirens blaring. I hoped there wasn’t an accident on the road ahead of us. About thirty seconds later we again heard sirens coming from behind us. This time three police cars flew by, followed shortly by several more police cars. I looked over at my daughter and saw the panic in her eyes. We knew something was going on at the mall. “Someone with a gun” was uppermost in our minds.
We turned on the radio, but there was no news yet, it was unfolding right in front of us. Hearing more sirens, we looked to our left just as a park ranger’s vehicle, lights flashing, went by. And then two more vehicles, unmarked cars with lights flashing, went by this time. My daughter started crying and I could only hold her hand and tell her it was going to be okay, all the time trying to keep my own panic at bay.
We neared the freeway and saw police car after police car exiting and heading for the mall. I was able to park on a side street facing the mall. We’d just parked when we got a text from our family member. He was all right, the store was in lock down, but thankfully he was safe. He didn’t know what was happening, but his store was not involved.
We soon saw news vans arriving and helicopters were flying above us. Loudspeakers were advising everyone to remain calm. This situation continued for what seemed like forever, but was probably more like an hour. Shoppers were finally being allowed to exit and cars were leaving the parking lot. We eventually learned that a fight had broken out in the food court and shoppers thought they’d heard gunfire. It was over. But it will remain in our memories forever.
I think the wave of senseless killings affects all of us. It’s heart-breaking, and it’s terrifying. There’s a sense of inevitability. When will it happen again? Where will it happen? I once teasingly called my daughter the “worst-case scenario” girl. Now, when I go into a movie theater I look for the nearest exit. When someone walks in front of the screen during the movie, I find myself looking hard at them for possible weapons. A trip to the mall is still enjoyable, I won’t say it isn’t. But I find myself more aware of my surroundings, and thinking about what I’ll do if the unthinkable happens.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Sandy Hook. If you have a chance, take a moment to read my post about 11 tips which might save your life.
Take care and stay safe.