The Shooting at Newport Mall

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.

Praying Through Pain

I am guest posting over at the Hoboken Grace Blog this week about how to pray in the midst of pain. We’re currently in a series called “In the Meantime: What do you do when there’s nothing you can do?” which, in (too) many ways, perfectly describes my life right now. I am sure many of you can relate to the idea of figuring out how to make it through a waiting season. If you are a person who prays, I hope this encourages you!

Praying with friends at Hoboken Grace
Praying with friends at Hoboken Grace

Sometimes I find it hard to trust God. I have experienced His love and grace in such richness throughout my life, so I know He will prove faithful yet again. However during difficult seasons, my heart can easily seize up, unable to believe that He will truly meet me in the midst of my pain. My prayers become desperate with each passing day they remain unanswered: God, please fix this. Please heal this person, please show up in this situation, please restore, please show mercy. Please. Please.

So what happens when our prayers go unanswered? It can seem easier to give up on communicating with God altogether, enacting a kind of silent treatment against our Creator. We barely open the Bible because we don’t believe God will use it to speak to our particular situation. Surrounded by pain and questions, we allow ourselves to be ruled by anxiety, often adding to an already difficult circumstance.

(Continue Reading Here…)

Five Years: An Ode to New York

Five years seems like a major milestone for us –

this raucous, seductive city and me.

As one who loves new adventures, endless options, and would prefer to always be on the move, half a decade is a big deal. In my younger days, imagining five years with someone seemed like an eternity. I assumed I would get bored, restless and need a new object for my affections. But it seems that New York and I have found ourselves officially in a long-term relationship.

Like most of my romances, I dove headlong into my love affair with New York. I was enticed by her flashing lights, rich cultural experiences, and most importantly, the promise of fulfilling career dreams. I came for the love of a good man, and for the dream of living in an incredible place that held endless opportunities.

Continue reading Five Years: An Ode to New York