Have you played the “Ever Done This game? You see it on Facebook sometimes… a list of questions that run the cultural gambit.
Have You Ever…
Been to the Grand Canyon?
Rode in a helicopter?
Broken a bone?
Pet a wild animal?
Missed a flight?
Faked sick at work?
Been in a public shooting?
That last one… I added. Checked the box last Monday when an ex-Fleming employee drove-by and shot the Stanford Shopping Center restaurant, and a car in the lot. We’ve Food Partied! with Flemings back in 2014. Oom is Moo Spelled Backwards. The meal was memorable and the story well told, but nothing like last Monday.
Not long after the shots, on the California Pizza Kitchen side of the mall, a cop car speeds past me in the parking lot. He disappears into the mall and I stroll onto the property glittering pretty because it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Immediately though, you couldn’t help but notice. No one’s around. Weird - but it is Monday. People don’t shop on Monday nights, I guess.
First stop is the money place to exchange Moroccan Dirhams. The lady behind the bullet-proof counter and I do business. We chit chat but she says nothing about being on lockdown.
I cross the mall over to The North Face. When I get there it’s totally dark and the doors are locked. I look around again.
What’s going on - is it a holiday?
A few stores down Victoria’s Secret looks the same. Where is everyone? Then glowing in the distance is Free People – a bright beacon in the growingly-eerie surrounding. Free People’s double doors are propped wide open, and spotlights blare like a Las Vegas souvenir shop. I walk in.
Hello. Hello is anyone… here…. ?
Free People – they ain’t kidding.
I cross the mall again, still no idea what’s up. It’s been about 10 minutes since I walked onto the property. I approach two women standing outside of Macy’s, scrolling their phones.
ME: What’s going on you guys?
THEY: Haven’t you heard? There’s been a shooting. But they caught the guy.
OMG! I start putting together the puzzle pieces. We stand around a few minutes, then a man appears inside the store. He slowly makes his way towards us and opens the locked door. About 15 shoppers pile out. Wow. I go in, still hoping for Black Friday deals. Maybe now an additional Lockdown Discount?
A plush velvet Christmas blazer catches my attention. Um, blood-red you might say. Some may call it a smoking jacket, but I’m calling it my new shooting jacket. “That was crazy,” I say to the clerk. “Oh my gosh that was so scary, she blurts out. I’m so upset, I don’t want to be here.”
On the way home I start thinking about what happened and keep thinking about it for two days. What a unique perspective - walking unknowingly around a community lockdown. Why didn’t the money lady say something to me – did she even know? Why was Free People wide open? Why did that woman say “they caught the guy,” when they hadn’t…for two more days? Why did Macy’s employees stay when most employees left? Why weren’t mall entrances marked with Do Not Enter tape, or broadcasting something like “Stanford closed, please leave the property” or the even more effective “Active shooter - Run for your lives!”
And if indeed there was an active shooter, guess who was their sitting duck? A clueless moving target wondering a mall maze slowly realizing something was amiss. The lone woman with nowhere to take cover because all the doors are locked. Cue the spooky music please.
Two days later I call Stanford security, California Assembly member Marc Berman, and U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.
To Stanford: Do you have an intercom system?
To Berman: Does the County send emergency texts warning the public to stay away from shootings, and if not, can we start? (Thanks to Berman’s office for getting back to us).
To Eshoo: Did the CDC start re-studying gun violence as a public safety hazard, and if so, is it time to recommit as change in Congress looms? (Thanks to Eshoo's office for getting back to us).
Alas, shootings - more common than earthquakes. Not confined to schools and churches, we are all involved in an increasingly dangerous human nature experiment. If our country continues to do nothing, at least we can improve our response.
We must do better.
photo by LSIC