This one hit too close to home.
It’s becoming routine now. Another mall shooting. More people dead.
But this wasn’t just any mall. It was my mall. Columbia Mall.
My niece works there. Mom shops there. My best friend’s nephew works there.
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Luckily, none of the people I love, care about or know were at the mall when shots whizzed through the Food Court near Great Cookie, as witnesses said.
This time Aurora, Columbine, Newtown, came to Columbia. It’s not that violence doesn’t happen in Columbia, but it’s not supposed to happen. Especially this kind of violence. Columbia is the planned community built by James Rouse to foster economic and racial inclusion. I grew up there in the ’80s. We lived in a bubble, and we knew it.
Over the years, as Columbia settled into it’s role as a suburb of Baltimore and Washington, the bubble popped. Still, none of us were prepared for a mall shooting.
The Mall? Columbia Mall?
“Shook,” that’s how one of my friends described it. “A wake up call,” says another.
Columbia only has one mall. It was the epicentre of our teenage universe. The Mall was the place we bored teens went when there was nowhere else to go. We did the soul stroll past the McDonald’s on the second floor looking for our friends. I got my first non-fast food job at Lady Foot Locker on the first floor. My best friend worked at Fantasies. Her mother at Kokopelli’s. Her sister at Bun Punny.
Security chased my little brother through The Mall. So many fights were scheduled to go down there. So many fights did go down at The Mall.
My mother still loves to lunch at Nordstrom’s. My niece works at the Origins counter at Macy’s.
When I heard about the shooting at The Mall, I didn’t think “How sad” like I did about the New Jersey mall shooting. This was Columbia Mall. This was home.
What If my niece had been scheduled to open at Origins as usual?
What If mom and her best friend had gone shopping Saturday morning?
At least once a month, there seems to be a shooting in a public place – a mall, a theater, a school. We’ve become so accustomed that we’re not even shocked anymore. Worse, we’ve given up hope there’s anything we can do to prevent them.
I don’t know how we fix this. It’s not just tighter gun control. It’s not just better mental health. It’s not just curbing violence in our entertainment. It’s a combination of all of these things or none of them.
I do know that when the bullets ring out in my hometown, in my mall, I want solutions not excuses.
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