Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

This afternoon, my husband took the boys to Mama Jo and Papa Pete's house so he could go for a run so I decided to run some errands. I needed to go to Tar-jé (Target for the less refined) for some laundry soap and other such exciting things. As I was setting out, I remembered that I'd also wanted to go to The Children's Place (TCP) to get some things for a little girl who's family our office "adopted." Perfect opportunity, as I did not have to drag the boys along and the deadline for the gifts is approaching. I thought, I'll go to the mall first, get it out of the way. It took me a while to put everything together at TCP, I was stressing over the shirts I'd chosen, worried that an eleven year-old girl might not like butterflies or cupcakes or whatever. I finished up, walked out of the store and saw the outdoor plaza. Which reminded me, LOFT was having a sale today, cable-knit sweaters for $15. Of course I had to check it out because that's a screamin' good deal! What if I hadn't seen that Facebook post about the sweaters on sale? What if I had left after going to TCP? What if I had just decided to go to Target first? Which begs the question, what if I had decided to go somewhere else in the mall before heading back to my car? But I was there at that moment and no amount of "whatifs" can change that or make me forget what I witnessed. Sure, I wasn't in the food court where the shooter opened fire, and I thank God for that. Let me tell you though, when a semi-automatic rifle is being fired in a huge, open area, it's hard to tell where the shots are coming from. It was surreal. One second I'm standing wih a couple in the elevator discussing window tinting and the next I'm frantically pushing the close door button on the elevator praying for God's protection. Here's how it went: I tend to choose the shortest possible distance when plotting my route, so that meant taking the glass elevator outside Nordstrom as opposed to he escalator in the store. I would have had to backtrack ever so slightly by riding the escalator (I'm lazy). As the doors to the elevator opened I stepped aside to allow the couple to exit before me -- I always defer to anyone else when opening doors, riding elevators, etc. Then I heard it, a series of loud pops. I was standing there, trying to place the sound but it wasn't until I saw people running that I was able to figure it out. Gunshots. I heard the man who was just on the elevator yell to his girlfriend/wife, "Run. RUN!" I immediately tried to think what my husband would do in this situation, as he always seems to know what to do under pressure, likely due in part to his military training. I stepped back on to the elevator and pressed the close door button. My first thought was to keep my finger on that button until danger had passed, but I decided it would be best not to pigeonhole myself in a glass elevator. I pressed myself into the metal panels and pressed "1." It was terrible. That sound and watching parents running with their babies in strollers. The panic on people's faces. I hurried into the store toward the shoe department where several employees and customers were standing in an alcove. Store security ran to the front entrance to shut the gate, yelling to customers to move away from the door. The next hour and a half passed slowly, with myself and many others trying to figure out via the Internet what had happened. Nordstrom employees brought around water and provided coffee for the hundred or so people hunkered down inside the store café. Finally they told us we would be evacuated and everyone was ushered the escalator and out a single exit. It wasn't until I was on the phone with my mom that I broke down. I completely fell apart. I'm not even sure how I made it home safely except by the grace of God. I was sobbing and gasping like a fish out of water as the gravity and realization of what had happened broke over me. The best laid plans. What I had intended as a quick trip stretched into hours, what felt like a lifetime. I cannot imagine the terror those people in the food court felt when that sick, depraved human being started shooting. Like me, he had a very specific mission though we may never know why. Life truly is so short and this for me is yet another reminder of just how little control I really have over it. I can despair and cry out, why God, why? But I know that despite the senseless violence He is in control. I don't know why God chose to put me in that place at that time but I believe my steps, my every millisecond on this earth, are divinely directed and that God has set me on this specific path for a specific purpose. I've had occasion to wonder why things are happening for me this way more than usual in the past month or so. I've yet to come up with an answer but I will continue to place my trust in Him.

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