I found out about the shooting in the Columbia mall within minutes after it happened. A co worker radioed the information to us and we clicked on the internet right away to find out more. As I read the little snippet of information on the web, my brain clicked furiously as to determine what my next action should be. The decision was not hard to take, I needed to call my family and hear their voices. I called and heard an enthusiastic “Hello Mama!” as Sahana picked up the phone. The greeting, her voice, the innocence in it and the enthusiasm jarred me somewhat, as my shocked brain registered the contrast – her complete ignorance that an evil has fallen in our community and the horrific tragedy itself. Her sweet, happy voice was a salve to my disturbed soul. A relief too, that my family was safely ensconced in our home and in their ignorance of the evil – for the moment. They were spared a few more minutes of peace of mind. The fact that these are the precious lives that are in jeopardy as the rage in the world reaches its zenith leaves me dispirited and weary at times. I wonder about this inexplicable rage that made an unassuming young man of nineteen years bring a shot gun to a mall and gun down innocent people.
As we waited for more information, I fervently hoped that the investigators would find some sort of connection between the shooter and the two victims – a twenty one year old mother and a twenty five year old young man, who, I later found out attended a high school which is couple of miles from my house. I thought if there was a relationship between the shooter and the victims, I could find some solace, if any is to be had, that this was vengeance or retribution or grievance, and not random or mindless. I believe, I, like many others, wanted a reason, a meaning, a ‘why’ for this dastardly act. Well, there were none to be had. Investigators found no connection….yet. That concerned me the most. The shooting is heinous, the deaths, so tragic. But the randomness is spine tinglingly scary, for me at least.
I got through that day, busy in my work and after work, the shooting remained in the corner of my mind however, as an unhappy, unwelcome fear. As I went to bed, the fear took form and loomed large. The mall, where Aguilar brought his shotgun, is our community’s place of comfort. My friends who grew up here, spent there youth going to the mall. The mall, for my kids, represents carousel rides, McDonald treats, Stride rite shoes, movies. My daughter watches back to back movies at the mall with her friends. I drop her off and drive away, completely complacent about her safety. On a cold winter day, ‘Lets go to the mall’ brings coats and gloves out without anymore reminders.
I felt violated that night as I thought of the shooting. I felt robbed of ownership of my ‘happy place’, and vulnerable as well. I did not feel anger, it was more fear and helplessness. I feared for my family and myself.
As I lay there, afraid, I also realized I can not live in fear of randomness. That would be living in perpetual fear of when and where disaster would strike. How binding is that kind of living?
I can not talk gun control anymore. That thought tires me too. The problem, obviously, lies deeper than just gun control. We need to figure out why young men like Darion Marcus Aguilar, who turned vegan a year ago because he saw a tv show on how the animals are slaughtered, becomes a slaughterer of his fellow beings.
A friend of mine, visited the mall the day it reopened. She couldn’t stay more than a few minutes, she said, because she needed to breathe. But she was happy she went, she felt part of this wonderful community that we belong to. She will go back again. And so will I, this week. I will go back and roam around the mall to reclaim the ownership of our happy place. We don’t move on from a tragedy like this. It is now ingrained in our fabric of life, but while remembering these lives lost, we live on. We live on, and perhaps, join our heads together to come up with solutions, resolutions, positive actions. I felt comfortable and safe seeing how the police and the county officials handled the crises. I believe my children understood tragedy happens but good people out there outnumber the bad. And that is a happy thought. Their world is not a perfect place and they too, when their turn comes, need to work on it.
I needed to air out my thoughts and I needed to remember. Thank you, if you read this.
Peace be with you all.