Fear while sitting in a food court

I was sitting in a crowded mall food court the day after Christmas and a suddenly a sense of fear rushed over me. I was alone with my headphones in, head buried in my iPhone reading a forgotten Kindle book, Methland, as I waited for the Apple Store to finish installing a new OS on my Mac. I had fries and an iced tea spread out before me on the table for one. It was as crowded I’ve ever seen the food court. The book I was reading had my attention, but suddenly an aching in my heart came over me along with a senseless panicked feeling.

Today marks 14 days since the tragic Newtown, CT, massacre. I was at work when I read the first tweets about the shooting. I’ve read and heard a lot of truly horrible stories in my lifetime, but this was the first time I felt so sick to my stomach after reading that I couldn’t focus on anything else. I know many felt and feel the same way. Also for the first time ever, I couldn’t bare to read my stream on twitter for awhile and quit refreshing my feed. I was brought to tears at least a half dozen times in the car listening to NPR rehash the day’s events, another first. It was overwhelming.

Maybe it’s because my Mom is the director of the preschool I attended when I was little. Everyday it is filled with kids just a year or two younger than those killed in the shooting. I literally grew up my whole life in a preschool and can’t fathom something as sickening happening there. It’s one of those stories that only requires the connection of being another human being to have your life brought to a halt as you learn about the news.

I’ve never been one to be afraid of something happening to me because something horrible happened in a similar setting somewhere else. I felt safe attending high school after Columbine. I felt safe attending college after Virginia Tech. When I was sitting in the crowded food court with hundreds of people around me this week, I didn’t feel safe anymore.

I looked up from my iPhone and discreetly scanned my surroundings making my way from corner-to-corner of the food court. If an elementary classroom doesn’t bring the sense of certain security it once did before, a mall food court would be no match. I contemplated right then in that situation what I would do, should something similar happen. Where I would run? Would I run? Would I hide and wait for an opportunity to try and bring a shooter down? Would I freeze unable to process what to do? What would everyone else around me do? It was a back and forth hypothetical situation that occupied my thoughts for enough time to finish my fries and tea. I finally quit thinking about it and went back to putting my head down to focus on my iPhone and lazily reading my book. I took one headphone out and let dangle to the side, though, just in case, so I could listen for any warning of gunshots that could be coming.