Yesterday there was a shooting at a shopping mall here in Charleston. This is sadly not the first shooting at this mall, one happened right before Christmas. This particular mall is one that my family and I go to frequently for Target. There was one HUGE difference between the shooting before and the shooting yesterday. The difference was that I was there with my children yesterday. It was scary and emotional and made for an exhausting day.
We stopped by the mall yesterday afternoon after Allie’s weekly Bible Study that she attends with a group of homeschooled girls. Allie had some gift cards left from her birthday and wanted to spend them. We parked where we usually do, which is right outside the target & food court entrance. We walked through the mall to go to Belk and then walked to the opposite end to go into Journeys. We had spent longer in Belk than I had anticipated, and by the time we got to Journeys I was ready to leave. I was thinking ahead about how I needed to get home and make dinner, finish laundry, and all of that usual randomness. At this point, it was almost 6. As we finished up and walked back toward the food court, we were passed by a running security guard. No one else seemed alarmed. He wasn’t shouting warnings or anything. I definitely thought it was odd that he was running past us, but I figured he was being called to handle a shoplifter or something. It got my attention and I knew something was going on, but I didn’t imagine anything close to the truth.
As we approached the food court area, we noticed that stores were closed. They had the bars down and everything was suddenly very quiet. When we got to the corner of the food court, my kids were hesitant to go any farther. We could see the reflection of lights flashing, but still didn’t know what was going on. I asked a man working at a cell phone kiosk and he told me that everything was on lockdown and that two cars had been shooting at one another.
My kids were ready to leave. They wanted me to exit from the other end of the building. We started walking the opposite way toward another entrance. I could tell their thoughts were becoming more and more panicked. We just stopped walking and paused for a moment to hug, cry, breathe, and calm our thoughts. They were panicked because of the unknown. Was the shooter in the mall? Was it safe to be in the building? They wanted to be anywhere but there and safe. I explained to them that the safest place that we could be was right where all the action was because that was where the police presence was so heavy. I told them that we were going to go back to the food court and I was going to talk with a security guard to find out exactly what was going on.
I sat them down at a table and walked up to the door. A security guard was posted there and was not allowed to let anyone in or out. This was all a safety precaution and he was given the instructions by the local police. As I approached him to verify the situation instead of basing it off of what everyone else was saying, he was being yelled at by a woman that was complaining about the lock down and saying that she had to get to work. This poor man! What is he supposed to do! What a thing for her to be yelling about- they were trying to keep everyone safe!! After she left, I asked the officer to just verify that we were in fact on lockdown. He did. He informed me that all entrances were on lockdown and that no one could go in or out at this time. I questioned that there was basically no way of knowing how long and that the best thing to do is just to sit and wait. He then quietly told me that there was actually a victim outside and so the area was a active crime scene.
I went back to the table and sat with my kids. We sat right in the middle of the food court and prayed together. We thanked God for His timing and talked about how He kept us safe. Remember how I mentioned that I was tired and ready to go? Well, if we had been done twenty or thirty minutes sooner… we could have been out there when this happened. We talked about all of the little things that happened that we saw in hindsight as a part of God’s protection.
– we were stuck behind a little old lady that was literally taking forever to check out at Belk
-we had to make a bathroom stop
– we noticed a janitor mopping the floor and decided to walk all the way around his area so we would not disrupt his work
We are choosing to recognize those simple circumstances as examples of how God had His hand on us. It was about 30 minutes later when they let everyone leave. Then there was a new problem to face. Those that were parked inside the yellow tape weren’t able to get to their cars. It was a crime scene- they couldn’t move them. People were calling for rides and everything. We looked and our truck was the row next to the tape. We were able to get in our vehicle and leave.
It made for a stressful evening. Lots of open conversations about why some people would carry weapons and just shoot someone else. No one was hungry or interested in dinner. They wanted to stay together and watch a movie when we got home.
No arguments here. We had a little movie night and as we prayed before bed, we thanked God once again for keeping us safe.
This world can be a very scary place. I can’t reassure my kids that we will never be in a situation like that again. Unfortunately, they are happening more and more frequently. I can teach them to pay attention to everything and everyone around them. I can teach them to keep their mind clear when they are in the middle of something like that so that they can make wise choices. I can teach them that God is with them always and there is no shame in calling out to Him anytime and anywhere. I am teaching them that no matter what they face in life, God will never leave them. They are never hopeless if they choose to put their hope in Him.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.””
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV