I have been traveling for work, hence the one week lapse since IT happened.
(If you must know, the travel rental was a black Hyundai Elantra and it was just fine for what I needed. I did almost go back into the the airport rental office and swap it for a Mustang except the Federal gummint looks dimly upon such shenanigans. Or something.)
Las Saturday, I was supposed to take my son (12) to see a special needs showing at the Columbia 14 cineplex, except that one of his therapists became available which was going to give me some valuable free time to get ready to travel to **Phoenix (where it never snows or gets down to minus something like where I live). My son has autism and really likes movies. Special needs movie showings are are at lower volume, the lights are set to dim and you can attend with your own food (!) and noise isn't frowned upon. I wish this happened more often because they also don't show commercials or trailers which is awesome. These things are great, it is like you are home with a really, really good screen. Off the therapist and my son go to Columbia Mall.
Around 11:25 or so she (the therapist) texts my partner and writes that she isn't allowed to leave the theater because of something going on at the Mall involving a shooter. We jump in the car and drive over there, as it is ten minutes away on a weekend day. I take a back road because I am thinking all the emergency apparatus will be using the main roads. Yep.
People are milling around in the parking lot, leaving the restaurants near the Mall and a few cop cars and an ambulance are near one Mall entrance. More are showing up. On the way there we saw a Maryland State Police helicopter at the hospital landing pad, which is less than a mile from the complex. Huh.
Nothing on the radio, yet. I drive up, leave the car (grey Prius*) and enter the theater where I am asked by an usher type to show ID, which I do. A skrillion autistic and otherwise special needs kids are with their parents and so forth lying around the carpeted lobby in front of the vending area. Note that this kind of situation (waiting in a crowd) can send your autistic kid into a full blown overload. My son, potentially so, since he has zero noise filters installed and mainly gets through noisy situations because of extensive training and noise cancellation headphones on a good day. He had just eaten something and so he was fine, right THEN.
I gathered him and the therapist (who was still completely calm) and went to leave. Whereupon usher nameless said that we couldn't leave. I asked who and why and he just repeated that we shouldn't leave. I said something along the lines of well this is me leaving and we went through the doors and got in the car. He said "It is on you" as I left. Hello, parent here, everything is "on me" kid-wise.
As we were leaving the Maryland State Police were locking down the intersections. The large Incident Command Post type vehicles were setting up in the parking lots. I did not know the MSP had one that was in a tractor trailer. In MSP livery it was pretty cool looking. I took no pics because I was driving.
The Mall was still locked down and it was then searched block by block. I think the theater goers were still there an hour or more later (GAH!) although I have no real data on that. People hiding in the stores near the shooting were locked down for another 90 minutes at least, according to some witnesses interviewed.
Having read about all of the other shootings in the US, the closest I came to one before, was my boss, who arrived at that theater in Colorado where a shooter shot up a movie theater full of people. He left immediately but had seriously considered catching that exact showing but changed his mind to go later on.
Part of our Saturday Mall trip always includes a walk around the Mall (winter here in Maryland) and then lunch at the Food Court. So my son and escort were ten minutes from being where three people were shot to death with a 12 gauge shotgun, and some others were injured leaving in a hurry. One person received a gunshot wound to the foot while they were on the floor below where the incident happened. Odd, that.
Having this happen in my front yard was... weird. it wasn't a distant story any more. Felt very invasive later on but the initial reaction was GET MY KID OUT OF THERE. which may be a normal parenting thing, dunno. as long as there weren't any Police officers who were trying to protect me directly, getting in and out was the no frills plan.
Weird day though, especially as the various media outlets spun up what happened. My sympathies to everyone who was affect by it, especially the families who lost real, live human beings to the shooter.
Not a cool story, but a story nonetheless. No more stories like this one, please.
*the WRX had NO gas, mea culpa.
** Phoenix is very flat, warmer, and features brown as a major design influence
. So it goes.