It can happen anywhere. That’s the scary part.
Earlier in the day, Amigo mentioned he’d heard a news update of a suspicious package at Trump Tower in New York City. The situation cleared up shortly after that announcement. I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t want to live in a Trump property right now.”
In the early evening hours, as I was texting with my sister-in-law, I saw an update come up on Facebook. It was from a teacher friend.
Scare at the mall. Got a call from daughter that everyone was to evacuate and police are there. Anyone know what’s going on?
Over the next hour, we learned that police had been called to the mile-long shopping center we locals call The Mall. Stories varied: evacuation, shelter in place, welfare check, possible suicide attempt. One, two, or even three people with weapons, thought to be guns.
It seemed each and every news outlet had a statement. Limited statements, of course, were released because there wasn’t a lot of official information. I thought to myself, “As teachers, we train for incidents like this, but danger can happen anywhere.”
I’ve trained in Non Violent Crisis Intervention. I’ve intervened in fist fights between kids bigger than I am. I’ve taken what we call “ALICE” Training – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. In terms of a large place like a mall, with crowds of individuals and strangers, it’s a whole different situation.
A woman who had been in the mall’s food court mentioned two groups of young people arguing and flashing “signs” at each other. She moved her young children away from that area, and soon afterward heard an emergency announcement. Gang fight? I thought to myself, “I know we have gangs in our city. I’ve worked closely enough with our liaison officers to know they’re here.”
Another statement came out – rumor? Maybe? – that two people were in custody, and police were looking for a third. And then we heard that police were seeking a man who might have had a gun and might have been headed for the mall. That individual was not found, or wasn’t at the mall to begin with. I thought to myself, “A crowded public place, seeking an individual who may or may not be dangerous, and in the meantime hundreds of folks are scared to pieces.”
Eventually, my friend posted in large font that her daughter had been evacuated and was on the way home. It’s a relief to her, to her family, and to all of us who fear the growing violence in our world getting all too close to home.
I’m not a mall shopper. I’d rather browse the clearance racks at a local department store that doesn’t anchor a mall. I’d rather support our downtown’s small businesses. I’d rather shop vintage and even thrift stores. And now? I’m even less likely to head to our local mall.
I fear – well, I’m less fearful about the random shooter style violence and more fearful that nervous people will take the law into their own hands. I fear that folks who celebrated the passage of a state concealed carry law will carry weapons with them when they go shopping. I fear that those carrying guns will cause more violence rather than prevent it.
I’ll pick up a newspaper tomorrow morning, but the most important news came over Facebook minutes ago. My friend’s daughter arrived safely at home.