That was not how I imagined my last day at work to be.
I was just supposed to work for flimsy three hours, then it'd be bye bye for good. I had not reckoned with a mass shooting, panic, and dead people.
My boss had gotten me some parting gifts, something that looked like a little worm inside of a tiny school cone, and a pizza made entirely out of jungle gummy-animals. I am yet to open any of those gifts.
He left me and my Bolivian lady co-worker around 5:30pm
Despite it being sales-time, the weather was probably too good outside for there being too many customers on Friday evening. Not that it was bad. It was fairly ok.
I'd told her that I would need to give a friend back her keys - she lives on top of the mall, and since I'll be leaving Tuesday and wasn't sure I'd come back to the mall until then, I wanted to drop the keys off already then - and leave for a short time. At some point, around 5:45
I would say, when there weren't any customers around, I said "Hey, is it ok if I go now? Gotta go buy something real quick, too." So we had a little exchange of
Her: Mhhh do you have to go now?
Me: Well if you'd rather want, I can leave you here while it's super busy and you just deal with all the customers yourself =D
Her: Ehhhhhhhh noooooo!!! Hahah!
Me: So I better leave now?
Her: ... Hmm...
Me: I can stay a little while longer if you're lonely... ;D
Her: Hahah, noooo, you can goooo!
Later we had a conversation about "if you hadn't gone then...", but I will get back to that later.
So I grabbed my friend's keys, my phone, earphones, and my wallet. I realize now that at a later point, I had totally forgotten the existence of my wallet in my actual hands. Anyway, so I left, walked through the mall on the top floor - there's one locked exit especially for residents, which I had the keys to - got to the exit and elevator to the ground floor, put her keys inside the letter box, and at that point shortly wondered whether I should take the elevator back to the special exit, or just take the walk outside the building, just 20m anyway, and it would get me to the ground floor of the mall where the Yves Rocher I had meant to go to, was at.
The elevator arrived before I reached the decision to walk the shorter way.
I went back up that one floor (or two, the basements are between that floor and the mall), got out, two ladies left open the locked door for me so I could enter, and I specially grabbed that door to shut it closed as well. Then, turned left, walked down the corridor to the escalators, took them down, no hurry, right there on the ground floor was the Yves Rocher. This probably took me about 2-3 minutes more than it would have, had I gone the route outside.
So I went in - it's a tiny Yves Rocher, just about 6-10 meters from one end to the other, crossed it went straight to the lotions and face creams. Mine was about to run out and they don't have Yves Rocher shops where I'll be going, so I wanted to stock up. There was one man behind the counter, and a young lady assistent just about where I was at, one or two more customers. I remember someone had been checking out and I think someone else had been standing close to the entrance.
I grabbed the stuff I wanted, but then turned to the lady and asked her whether that was actually the follow up creme of one I had used a few years ago or not, since the colour was entirely different etc, but she was being super nice and helpful, saying yeah it is, and wondering what exactly they had changed, she seemed to know her stuff, so I stood and talked to her for probably one more minute, if not more.
Now I'm not sure I had already said 'Ok thank you' but it was just a few moments before I was going to check out.
Then, the noises.
I mean I know what gunfire sounds like, I've been at a shooting range twice before, having some fun, but... it's not exactly the kind of sound you expect to come from within a mall, in a safe city, in a relatively safe country. You know?
So, for a split second there was a thought of "someone fucking around with bangers?". Everyone in the store had turned to face the noise, everyone suddenly on edge, alert. Kind of surreal. There were several shots in very quick succession. I think five, six? Yeah, but before I could even finish the thought with the "someone fucking around" people outside the store, in the corridors, had started screaming and running.
... wow I'm actually getting goosebumps writing this.
Ok so I still had that creme in my hand, standing next to the counter. The lady who was just an arms' length in front of me suddenly started running as well. It was just... it was so fucking quiet except for those screaming, but you know, it was just... I guess it was just pure instinct. I heard no one around me go like "FUCK RUN RUN" or anything, I heard no one say anything,
people were just running. For a moment I hesitated what to do with the creme, but I actually stopped a split second and put it down.
This one moment amused me a lot later, because hey, free face cream, I should have just taken it. I'm actually not sure whether I'll be getting any chance to buy it actually, now.
Anyway, so I put it down orderly on the counter, the lady I think had already dashed around the corner - there was an emergency exit after a short corridor right next to the Yves Rocher - the very one I would have taken if I'd gone the little walk outside. People ran. I dashed as well. Just out, out, out... there's this... area? like a parking lot? but not? recreational area? Wow, I've never been there a lot I guess and memory just entirely fails me but there's an actual parking garage, so I think it's just a small area for the residents or whatever, anyway, about 20-50m away from the entrance, I stopped, turned around, watched.
People kept running from the exits, streaming from the exits. Some also from the other floor, but I believe those to be vendor rooms and depots mostly.
I had... always... had this pet peeve about movies where people (usually females) find a dead body, or get scared, and just scream hysterically. I know I wouldn't scream. Now... people did scream, yes, but ... not as hysterically as might have been portrayed in a movie? I don't actually know. I do know there was screaming, people yelling at each other once they were outside (the things that I had missed inside, like run run run and fuckckkkkkkk, you know, natural exclamations). My heart was going quick. I think there were more shots at this point. I am not entirely sure. The first round of shots sounded not very far away, from inside the mall. Now media says it started at McDonalds, which is situated across the street from the mall, quite a way from the Yves Rocher. You don't usually hear things going on outside on the street when you're inside the mall, like, never ever. I admit I've never heard gunfire without the earmuff things on? but I highly doubt that the first shots I heard were from McDonalds. Especially since people were this
alarmed, yes, I am absolutely sure we missed the first attack in front of the fast food chain entirely as we were inside, and it was the actual attack inside the mall that we heard.
There were pedestrians that were actually walking toward
the mall at this point, clearly confused, so everyone not running (not a lot of people) told them to stay back, "shooting at the mall". I kept standing there, waiting, watching what would happen. There was an elderly lady with a walking cane sitting on a bench two meters from me, just resting. She asked me calmly what was going on. I told her. She only seemed surprised a little bit, but not terrified or shocked, like it wasn't entirely real for her either. It was definitely surreal to me. She just said something like "oh well, I live on top of the mall so I have nowhere to go haha".
I think one of the first things I actually did was going on Twitter, trying to shout out some warning (I'd seen people do so before in situations of crisis and I found it important to get it out), something like "there's a shooting at the mall hashtag hashtag everyone LEAVE". Then I messaged one of my best friends. Then I messaged my mom.
I tweeted at 17:58
, then I texted him, then at 17:59
texted my mom.
Shit I'd actually taken a picture of me on snapchat on 17:51
when I was on the elevator back to the store. Another at 56
when I had run outside stating there was a shooting. Guess snapchat was before telling people personally wow. Anyway, things went so quickly, looking at time stamps is fascinating and my heart is actually going like woom woom right now. No actually, I had tried calling my coworker at 56 at well, both her on the phone, and the store, to check on her, I just checked. So I believe that was first, then SC, then the rest.
So it seems somewhere after 18:02
, just about five minutes after that it happened... I must have heard the other shots, seemingly coming from the parking garage. People screamed and ran as well. But since the shots had transferred seemingly so vehemently... so I decided one thing, very quickly. Actually in my statement, I had thought to have stayed out there 5-10 minutes. Shows it wasn't even five. Somewhere around then I heard sirens.
I chose to go back inside.Two reasons
To check on my coworker, and the store, tell her to leave if she hadn't already. She's someone who tends to need a lead.
Then, to grab my bag from our store.
I judged it possible to go, since the shots were from a different direction, I figured, now, or fucking never. Which is also why I simply did
it, and involved no one with my decision.
One thing I had totally forgotten all the rest of the night until I went to bed, which I never told any interviewers or the police, because it was simply gone from my mind, was the fact that I wasn't alone. Just a few minutes after, there were a few people gathering around the entrance, and going back inside. Those were around five or so, I think all of them shop assistants. So we stood inside
the building for a bit, tense, alert, staring into the direction the shots had first been heard, there was a quick exchange of words, I don't remember many, I expect there were a few questions whether "he" was there or maybe not, but mainly the short conversations were about "shit I closed down the store and ran" "FUCK I left the store open all the money is still inside
there and all fuck I gotta go close it!", things like that. Fucking diligence. Fucking sense of duty, just wow, I'm so amazed, as in astonished
, how strong that thing is.
And at least 3? 4? out of the bunch of us were entirely certain that going back to the store to close it was the exact right thing to do, because hey, who'd want to face repercussion if stuff got stolen. I don't think that was actively on anyone's mind, it's just a thing, you know, orderly, you close the store when you leave it behind. So also that was on my mind, if I could make it back to the store and it wasn't closed, to do so if possible.
So the people quickly scattered towards wherever their stores were.
I don't remember exactly how things happened then, I'm trying to reconstruct from the bits of memory there are.
So I got inside on the ground floor, had to go up. So I took the next escalators (there's just... two? in the whole mall I think? Or maybe 3, one is at the crossing point toward the front, then the other one close to the Yves, and I know there's one back at where the pharmacy is but I think that's identical with Yves, I'm a little hazy on that. But I'm fairly certain. This one is toward the middle of the long, hind part of the center. Pretty far back actually. Anyway, so I go up it. There was a bearded man, around 50, black and grey hair, dark eyes, foreign ancestry (like so many here, really) who was headed the same way. He looked like a visitor, not a clerk or anything like that. So we were pretty close to each other as we headed upstairs, calmly, but alert. The top floor splits into left and right, there's railings and you can look downstairs. Sometimes these two sides connect in the middle. He went the right way. I went the left way.
Many stores I passed by were closed, and seemed evacuated. I passed by a huge shoe store, with about four or five shop assistants toward the back of the store (I think one was close to the front), all very alert and seeming confused (again, as basically everyone). Curious fact, one of my earphones in at all times, yet no music playing, just in case I'd get a call (and it would be on silent, actually, but that wasn't a conscious decision, however I realise now, a great one), from my coworker as I'd hoped.
I called out to them "Are you ok?" I didn't have to talk loudly, as the place was practically deserted, and there was absolutely no sound... I can't remember a thing. Like, really. It was absolutely quiet. As quiet as a mall can be. "Do you know what happened?"
They answered they were ok, I'm not actually sure what my second and third questions were, I might also have asked "Did you see anything?" but all they said was that they were alright, they hadn't seen anything? but they had realised what was going on. I believe at this point some of the other assistants had started to walk towards me.
Someone asked "What should we do, should we lock down as well?"
I was just like "Yes, close the store! LEAVE RIGHT AWAY!!! STAY SAFE
" and they all grabbed their doors (I think they got these glass walls you have to push/slide, several at a time, fucking time consuming) and I just walked on. Quick pace, quickish pace, but not running. Yeah, I know "stay safe".
At this point, the man who had been walking in the same direction as me, he came back, almost running, toward me, pointing downstairs, saying, not shouting, but saying firmly and at least twice, "He's downstairs he's downstairs"
Now I am not sure whether there had been more shots at this point... I believe there were some.... then... or a little after? But I'm not sure. Anyway when he had told me that the guy was apparently right below us, I walked a lot faster,
extremely alert if I could have been any more so, staying as close to the side as possible to not be visible (I'd actually already done that all this time), rushing toward our store.
So our store is toward the front part, imagine the whole shopping mall is like an L with the horizontal line being super short, and the vertical line crossing the horizontal and continuing for about about the length of the horizontal line. The Yves Rocher is about on the first third or fourth of the upper part of the vertical line, that's also about where the escalators are. The other escalators, as I stated before, are at the intersection. Our store is around the middle of the horizontal line. Many people don't even go there because it's such a short part they don't even realise things exist here (well, that changed when the apple store moved in, but it's still somewhat like that)
So I was just about next to the escalators, with the shooter apparently more or less right below me, and I look over toward the other side of the escalators, maybe 10, maybe 20m (I'm not very good at guessing length hah), not far away,
in front of either a Douglas or was it the H&M, I saw a body lying, motionlessly, there was blood, pooling, in front? and behind, more behind, I think at the sides and this was one thing
that real blood fucking looks fucking bright.
At least on this mall floor? It looked diluted, light red, almost orange from that distance, very different from what I might have expected? But so this person was a while away, and on the other side of the escalator, and there was a young woman, kneeling beside them, crying, desperate, silently. She looked up once, toward me, confused, despairing, then I think she actually went on the floor, and tried to perform CPR.
This image is the one clinging to me the most.
Just her face in tears, her make-up runny, the fear, terror, and absolute despair in her face. Actually kind of crying now, that one image keeps doing that.
I had not stopped once, I had rushed to the store.
Now just a bit later I wondered whether I should have stayed, asked whether she needed help, escorted her out... something.
I realised as well that things might have gone a lot differently if I had, like each and every step that I took from the very beginning, and I trust my guts and I trust my protectors, and it not once occurred to me in that very moment that I was supposed to go there. Instead I rushed to the store.
It was still open, but my coworker nowhere inside. I ran very quickly toward the other end of the store, opened the door to our office, grabbed my bag, stashed my jacket inside, for a split second stared at the gifts my boss had made me in the name of the store, but it was really just a look, I wasn't intending to take it. Too big anyway. I also looked at the desk, since that is where I had left my key to the store, as I was supposed to give it back today. It wasn't there, so I thought maybe she took it for safety, but it was probably my boss, I realised then, who'd already put it away.
I didn't waste more time. This is where I think something must have happened, either when I was running toward my store, or coming back out? I think running toward, I think there had been shots again, and inside the mall, again?
That is what I don't remember, all I remember is that my sense of absolute urgency to get the fuck out was heightened to an extreme around the point I was at or in our store.
There's another emergency exit (SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, KNOW your EXITS this saves fucking lives fuck) just outside our store, between it and the one next to it, located on the other side of a little corridor. This would take me outside the opposite side to where I had been originally, and the main street. Well, some goods delivery area, about 100-200m to the actual main street. I was on edge when I opened the doors, I mean who knows who, where, how many, what, so each door I opened and then I just rushed outside, I saw people on the main street running, there was a police officer in a reflective end, still like 50m away, he was waving, telling people to leave this side of the street, giving directions to go to the opposite street, I saw him (I was the only person at this area really, everyone else had come from the main entrance a little way to the right), he saw me, he motioned urgently and I just raaaaaan
to the pavement, crossed the street, and in a stream of others, some crying, some yelling, a lot on the phone, most confused, some who were just passersbys and had no idea what was even going on, all mixed up in this one stream, people going "there's a shooter inside there's a shooter go back go back turn around", some other languages, just things,
and so I came to stand at the side of the road there, and that was the first moment it hit me (uh, sensitive spot there, it's coming back), I mean everything of this was so fucking surreal
and yet more real than anything, ever, and just then when I was in presumed somewhat-safety, the shock came and I was just like fffffffffuckkk and so close to tears, so fucking close, just breathing, just holding myself and I guess just relieved
that I was here now, and not in there.
A little while after, I walked closer to the crossroads and stayed toward the side of the road. There was an elderly woman, she looked pakistani or turkish maybe, with a headscarf, a handbag, a little black rolly luggage thing. I talked to her after a few minutes, but right then there was just a lot of people telling other people what was going on, some asked, some cried, it was mayhem. Somewhere then I must have texted again. I have no idea when I texted those things at 18:06, maybe after the shoe store and before the man said He's downstairs? or in my store? I have no fucking idea, I just know when I definitely did not. Maybe I had already been outside, rushing toward the street. No idea. I know that once things had "settled" a little (no settling for a long time to come), I texted that I was safe. My phone at this point I think was already blowing up. Numerous retweets and likes and messages on twitter, other people texting me (at first just people who'd seen my tweet or messages, it wasn't even on the news yet) I couldn't even reply to everything at first. As time went by there was just more and more and to most I just said that yes I was there and yes I was ok, and ignored the rest. Reporters from CNN and BBC started messaging me, asking for interviews. I said yes sure why not. Whatever one can do to shed some light on this, right?
Anyway I was talking to that lady first. She was only talking English, having a conversation with a girl close by, clasping her phone and I think purse, very tightly, looking scared, and the lady just told her what had been going on.
She said that she was at a coffee shop, or had sat down at a bench close to the coffee shop with her coffee. Her English wasn't very good, so sometimes she used words that didn't entirely fit, but what it seemed she tried to say was that he actually passed her by, she repeated "man with black clothes" a few times, she pointed to her face, waving across it and said "black" I think, I asked "did he wear a mask?" because over here it would be the more natural thing to assume, not actually a skin colour, we don't even have a lot of black people to begin with, so I asked that, she said "yes" after a while (not sure that is true, not sure any of this is accurate), then she said "he had big gun!" but she also pointed on her arm, I assume she showed how big it was, a little longer than a hand, pointed a few inches below her wrist, "big gun!" and pointed again, I believed what she pointed, then she said something, screaming maybe? and shooting, and how she just ran and "left my phone behind", she had one of the more expensive types of smart phones in her hand, gold/bronze coloured, and "my other one, haha" and then what she said mixed up a little, she said something about "people running escalator" and "lying on escalator" but she also said "shooting people on escalator" then something with "dead" and escalator and said something about "15" and I believe that her daughter had worked inside or something about family. I then sat down because I was dizzy and I asked whether she had something to drink - my water bottle had still been under the counter at work. She said something about "no just coffee in shop", no water, so I just stayed until I was feeling more stable. Other people passing by also said things like "one dead in front of kebap place" and there was a lot of panic and a lot of tears. I had plugged my phone into my external charger, it was on about 10% and the percentage never went up until about 11pm
when the activity on my phone had subsided. It never went up.
So in the next couple of hours, uncertain hours in which we were transferred from one side to the other, more and more sirens, helicopters, heavily armed police force storming one then the other direction, people running in panic, little children (this one girl in particular just telling her mom to JUST GO, crying... well it's what I believe what she said, it was a foreign language, but she tore at her arm looking back at her, scared and crying)
crying, grown ups crying, speechless bystanders, more running, more police force, police operation, special force operations, etc, for a good while I was on the phone with CNN, very interesting experience actually, hearing the program from "the other side" so to speak, the first girl who was talking to me the first hours, she was super nice and I think she kept talking to me a little, and just the way they go like "Ok you'll be up in 4 minutes from now, you'll be speaking to xyz", etc, it was just... yeah, very interesting. So they put me on air live a few times (another part of the surreality really, I mean they had picked me out since I was on public media with this and responded quick enough I suppose, obviously that's just 'the thing' for any reporter) and I really liked that during the first reports they didn't even seem to twist anything, they made clear certain things were just speculations, and relied more on witness reports and what they knew from the official police statements? I don't know I mean I wasn't entirely focussed on the programs. They happened, but just on one plane of existence, the things around me happened as well. I just sat down on the pavement because I'd started to feel dizzy. At some point it started to rain. Sometimes things happened and I would tell them and they would either put me live or repeat what I had said I believe, I am not entirely sure anymore. What I do
know is that the first girl was really super nice and she also said "hey you should think about changing your line of work, you're amazing
at this" (I actually was, until at later programs I basically just had to keep repeating what I'd already told a few times so it got repetitive and my language started slipping into the unbenownst and also, from a reporter's pov probably wasn't as gripping as my first reports when I was still shaken up and it was just happening.
My mom, who kept texting me, as well as my best friend, they kept telling me some things that were on the media, because I had no idea what was going on publically, too much happening on my phone, and the interviews all the time, just BOOM, so there were thought to have been several shooters, three, the number of dead people went up and down, in the meantime I got in touch with my coworker via text messages, she was safe-ish in a depot from a different store, but she didn't tell me a lot more information, I'd asked how many and where exactly, etc, didn't know how many, but I tried to keep in touch.
The rest is basically public...
At some point at 21:07
we were escorted to a KFC close by, with our hands raised above our heads. Not everyone was doing it, and most put them down after 100m or so. At this point of time I was dehydrated, hungry, a little dizzy, a little wet and a little cold, and had to pee. I wasn't on the line anymore but I kept getting calls here and then. I have no recollection of how many really and how long all in all. BBC also got interested in talking to me, but things happened so I didn't get back to them until later, but talked to them the next morning. CNN also talked to me late at night around 1am lol. The next day, today, i also got a few people asking for interviews but I was like no fuck I already got set back on my plans to pack all night so I got a lot to do, and the other wanted to send in a live radio reporter to town and asked whether I could meet up, but I didn't hear back from her, also not deplorable, that. They'd also gotten some other witnesses' who saw more interesting things (children getting shot is always "popular"). I just noticed that the more I had to repeat what I'd seen, the less they let me say. I think the first report, the longest one, I even mentioned the lady I talked to, and some other things, the dead or badly injured person on the floor etc, at which point that first girl was always really there
and like "oh wow... oh damn... that must have been terrifying!" etc while others, later, seemed a lot more desensitized. Definitely interesting experience, all of that.
So, KFC. They escorted us there, then made us stand to the side of the building, then someone tried to speak to all of us with a megaphone, but it was really hard to understand it all. It was women and children in first, those who have already been dealt with (witness reports, statements or just taking the personal data for those who had not witnessed anything), men in latest to let the women and children sit.
None of that really worked, I passed by two police officers who also were like "so everyone's going in at the same time anyway huh" and I thought well most of the people around me look like foreigners, maybe an announcement in English would have helped.
So we sat down inside around 21:20
. I asked another woman for water. She didn't have any apparently, despite having a bottle out in front of her. It might have been empty. I couldn't quite make it out.
Here was some time of... not respite, since I was far too uncomfortable for that, but time to get back to more friends and acquaintances who were reaching out and were worried. Mostly I just talked to my mom, and even that was sporadic. And a little bit my slightly distracting friend. Some others. My phone has never been so busy in its entire life.
Police made a few more announcements, the first I didn't really hear, people were quiet at first but then started getting louder, probably because they couldn't understand either.
There was a topless man with kids next to me. There was another topless man close by. Someone walked up to them, offering a shirt. Apparently he felt warm enough to say no thank you. Most of the people I saw were foreigners or of foreign descent.
At this point I think my boss had again tried to get back to me (informed him as soon as I was in 'safety') because my coworker's phone had been off apparently, for quite a while. So we had not idea what was going on with her. I know the police had officially stated the mall to have been evacuated which was not true, they had still been in that depot hours after. In fact she only got outside there around 11pm
. When we were still in contact she'd said the police hadn't come yet, while my boss said 'the police is coming for them now' but maybe he'd misunderstood her broken language, maybe not, apparently police had
talked to them (I suspect one of them had called them) and they'd told them to stay in there, because it was safe).
Another police officer came inside, repeating something that had already been said but more audibly and asked for people to have witnessed something to raise their hands. Now I wasn't sure whether they meant only "see" something or just in general wanted to separate the bystanders from those actually at the spot so I raised my hand. "Yes, lady in white, this way please". [... lady in white, actually, wow... haha... just coming to me now.] This was at 21:40
ish. Two officers came along with me. I asked them "do you mean witness as in only see? because I didn't see him. I just was close by, but I can tell you everything that I witnessed otherwise? Not sure what is helpful?" so one hesitated a moment when I said I hadn't seen him but they were like oh what the heck let's just do this, so we went into one of their civil cars. One of the guys forgot something inside, his colleague was like "seriously you're thinking of that now?"
no actually I think he had to go pee lmao I don't know. The other one was a funny one actually. He was like "don't let strangers touch you..." and I was like "hahaha yeah righttttt...", but cracking a joke wasn't distasteful at that point. Just a trying-to-lighten-the-mood thing, because what else can you do.
I also asked whether they knew anything about people who'd been inside, whether they were out yet, and he listened to what I had to say about my coworker. They wrote down her data but didn't know anything "there's like hundreds of policemen out here, no one knows what the other does" (hm, good to know?... I'm paraphrasing, but he kinda said that. Which of course makes sense, because hey this is really hard to keep together, and how would that have been possible really)
His colleague left us actually to do something else (there were at least 4 officers standing to the side of the car talking, they could have taken statements as well -.- Who knows, maybe it wasn't their department), after asking whether that was ok, which it was. So he took out a few pieces of paper and a pen. In my head I was like wow, thought maybe they had little board computers that they could type on, they seriously have to write every single statement by hand? Fuck.
Ok so he took my statement.
He was super happy when I said "then I went back inside". Of course he was. He shook his head, took a deep breath, then said "wow, I don't know whether you were brave or just reckless......." or maybe he said "whether that was..." either way I was like "BOTH, definitely, both."
I also told him about what the woman had told me, of course only able to paraphrase and who knows how much of what I could relay was useful, but here I learnt one thing - take pictures of people you talk to when they seem to know anything. I had not a single picture of her on my phone. It could have helped the police. Maybe. Who knows.
When all that was over he told me to go with a group of people who were being escorted outside the building to the main street.
Now the fun began, as the nice officer there with his huge gun told us 10 or so that we had to go South for about 300m then under the police tape and then we'd be safe and should just keep going south or then west or east, but definitely avoid all the little side streets, they weren't safe, and yeah we were free to go.
And I just stood there until they scattered and looked at him and said "Uhm... I have to go North?" There was something like "well fuck" in his face and asked me where exactly, I told him the street and how that was basically just the very street we were on, passing by the mall and just allll the way up straight north.
"Well. that's not possible."
"Okay how do I get home..."
He asked me whether I had someone to come pick me up. I quickly ran through a limited number of people through my list. Nope. None with cars anywhere close by. So he told me to go south, then allll the way west in a huge circle and then "try" to get north from there on.
Usually it would take me 15-20 minutes home from there. I left around 22
And that was... interesting, because uh, I passed a lot of police control points, the streets were hushed,
empty, dark, wet, and so so silent. But every sound, every crack that was louder than a wind's rustling, it made me look around alert. They still believed there to be at least one or two shooters on the run
. Actually all this time, all those hours before, just sitting at the crossing, all we knew was "he is on the run" or "they are on the run" and nothing was really safe. Especially when police officers stormed a building, and people rushed from a different side.
I also asked some police officer whether it's possible to go North now, and he said "I'm not sure, you'll have to try... good luck..." and yeah I felt awesome this particular night walking through dark streets. It was so ghostly... and yeah it was scary in some way... but not really scary-scary, just... extremely suspenseful, you know? And I had no idea how long it would take me and just augh.
At this point another very good friend had gotten in touch with me, no idea what was going on he was just like "lol" as a reaction to he last thing I had said ages ago, then I was like "are you aware what's going on right now" he's like "rain?" and I told him so there was another mild wtf and a bit of a conversation that brought me along part of my way. Him, and a girl-friend who was texting me super worried at this point, as well. Mom said she would stay up until I was home and in safety.
Had to turn back at some point, there was a man on the path next to a meadow, but he was with a dog, and police with dogs said we couldn't pass through here, so we went back and I asked him whether he had a good idea for me to get back so he told me, and I did just that.
Took a while. There was some traffic jam towards south. Nothing going North whatsoever, except for one taxi that had
been going south but then got stopped by someone.
Latest on my way back, I realised at least one more thing
If I hadn't gotten back to the store... there'd been no way of me to get in my house. At this point of time I had totally forgotten that my wallet had actually been with me when I'd left the store, because I also thought "I'm leaving the country on Tuesday, how the fuck do you think that's going to work out without my credit card, my identification, nothing??" Well the credit cards had actually been with me, but as I think I mentioned earlier, the details of my decisions I hadn't been conscious of, it was just the necessity to get the bag
aka my possibility to go home, and to continue my life the path it was supposed to take shortly. It held true for the ID - those were in my bag, not my wallet. The mall's FB page later said they will be closed Saturday, and possible a few more days up to a week after. Which would have slimmed the chances of getting some of my most valuable possessions back. Either way, that's how it went.
When I arrived home first thing I did was take a picture of the front door at 23:19
like I MADE it then texted people when I had actually closed to front door behind me. For a fucking relief. Outside I heard people's TVs, they were having news programs on... it was so surreal. The streets were so empty, so dark, so hushed, it was so so surreal and ghostly. I know I'm repeating myself. It's just so fucking surreal.
First thing I did when I was inside
was drink. Sit down. Not faint from dizziness. Drink more. Get up and warm up some food.
It was around midnight... a little past midnight I think when I was sorted out. I was supposed to pack all night. But that wasn't really happening. Too unfocused for all that.
Still nothing from my coworker, but my boss said that someone saw her board a bus.
The morning after around 9 (I'd gone to bed past 2am I believe, and didn't sleep for a while) she calls me, I didn't take that call, too groggy, some news person from CNN I think calls, telling me they'll call me in 15 or so? and BBC texted saying they'd call a little while later (goodness...) so there was that, then coworker called again, or I think it was after I'd texted her and said I'd call her back right away, and I finally got to talk to her.
She hadn't made it back home before 5am.
And her story is wild
Basically what she'd told me was... she'd been in the store, had some customers, when suddenly the shots were fired. She said the man just ran out, and maybe someone else? and she didn't know what to do, no one said anything (here, that same phenomenon that I witnessed... so eerily quiet in all that mayham). Only heard her story once so I'm not sure exactly, but she went to the entrance of the store, and she actually saw him,
around where I passed by when I saw the body on the ground, when he stood there, firing towards the direction where I'd seen the body, several times, I think she went back into the store then, scared, tried to get back to the entrance then saw one of the people who work at the little coffee shop right behind us in one of those overlapping parts of right and left corridor, saw him hiding behind something so she ran to him, asked what to do, but all he said was "I don't know" (she repeated that a few times, seemed important to her, as I had mentioned earlier, she is someone who needs guidance).
Somehow she then ran and ended up in that depot of another clothing store. At some point she went back to our store to close it, then ran back there. Where she and the rest, maybe five or so of them, hid out until around 11pm
when they were finally brought outside.
Then she would have had to go through the whole process of filing a witness report but all she wanted was to get back home so she only told the police her data and said she hadn't seen anything. I asked her what he looked like, whether he was wearing black or had a mask, she said yes to the black but no to the mask, and that he was the "same one that was in front of McDonalds". A while later she and some others were boarding a bus, that was correct, however the busses also only went southwards, and she lives even more north than I do - we usually take the same busline north.
The busses brought them to the central station, where she then was stranded, since absolutely no public transportation went anywhere. I don't know whether it was here when they were brought to some sort of gym to stay. She said she'd cried, and someone talked to her and she got some water, but she felt sick to the stomach so she didn't eat. If the gym happened at this point of time, some bus driver said they'd go up north, or at least try to, so she boarded that one. I think she said something about having to walk a bit in the end as well, either way, she came home around 5am
She also kept saying "if you hadn't gone yet, just stayed 10 more minutes, you would have been there, I wouldn't have been alone, you would have known what to do..."
Which is entirely true - except for the last part, I can't say since the situation didn't occur... I do know however I would have gotten her out of there to the best of my abilities, but here is the thing...
I would have had to take care of someone else.
And I do protect.
But in this case, I'd rather have been alone, in retrospect.
Nothing of what happened after I'd first ran out would have occurred. Maybe other things, maybe the really bad things, who really knows, but I would have focussed more on keeping other people around me safe and I do... I do appreciate that experience that I made that evening. I really, actually, do.
It was scary. It had my heart in my throat and probably other places. It was oppressing. Eerie. In some way, terrifying, shocking, but it also taught me things, about myself, about people, and I am factually glad I made this experience the way that I did. I mean I did not
have a gun pointing at me, I did not
have him face me, no close contact with the perpetrator himself, all of which would have been things to probably traumatise me one way or the other, at least it would be a natural reaction, but that didn't happen, and I was lead through all of this safely. I still don't enjoy hearing others talk about it. I still get goosebumps talking about it myself. Every time there's a loud noise that remotely sounds like gunfire, or people screaming, I am alert.
But I got through it safely.
And that is, in its own way, wonder-ful.
And maybe, brave and reckless.