We took this picture tonight when we were home and safe, but it has been the most terrifying night of my life. I’m going to write my way through the processing, because I’m a writer, and this is the only way I know how.
There was a shooting at our local mall food court tonight in Jersey City where Nick and Marcus were eating dinner, waiting for me to join them after work because my train had been delayed. I had finally made it to the food court on the top floor of the mall and just stepped off the escalator, attempting to finalize my Chick-fil-A mobile order when I heard 2 shots reverberate through the air.
It was as if time stopped and someone pressed the fast forward button on this scene of my life all at once. My brain started asking questions and rationalizing. Were those gun shots? They were too loud to be anything else. Would there be more? How many people were armed? Was this a personal vendetta or a mass shooting about to begin? People around me started screaming and running down the escalators and stairs and I did the same, instinctively, knowing my family was sitting on the other side of the food court, on the same level as the gunfire.
Once I hit the level below, I hesitated. Do I keep running? Do I duck into a store and hide, hoping they’ll pull the gate? Do I try to figure out where my family is and if they’re safe before I move any further away from them? But I knew the smartest, safest thing to do in that moment was to run. The crowd was thin enough and I knew I was fast enough to have a good chance of getting out of the building. So I turned and ran.
As soon as I got outside to what I assumed to be relative safety, I called 911. Another part of me wanted to call Nick but I knew that it would be more helpful to everyone trapped inside to call the police to hopefully get as much backup on the scene as soon possible. As I explained what happened, I put 911 on speaker phone and checked my texts. There was one from Nick: “MARCUS IS SAFE DONT COME TO THE MALL!!!!! Go straight home.”
We texted back and forth, I debated waiting for them to see if we could meet up at the light rail train to head home, but they were on the other side of the mall in the parking garage, and I knew it would be a while before we could get to each other. So I did the safest thing I knew to do—take the next possible train home. Nick and Marcus found a way out and started walking home and a friend came to pick them up. When they finally walked through the apartment door at 6:54, the three of us enveloped in the best group hug we’ve ever had.
And now? I am devastated by the news reports. Not just devastated for myself/my family having to live a nightmare scenario, but for the (likely) teenagers (according to my husband’s account) involved in an act of gang violence that wounded two people. I’m devastated that a local gathering place is not safe because somehow the shooter tonight was able to get access to a gun that they never should have had, especially if they were under age.
I am devastated for every mother who has ever wondered if her baby is safe because of the threat of gun violence. I am praying for the victims shot tonight, the shooter, the youth in our community, and begging the leaders of our country for REFORM, NOW. Too many people are harmed and killed daily because of our inaction. We are each our brother’s and sister’s keepers and as a human family, we need to act like it and legislate like it. We belong to each other.