Often I don’t hear my cell phone, or if I do it has stopped ringing by the time I find it hidden among the coupons, used tissues and cosmetics that live in my purse. Yesterday, I heard it, answered it and talked to my 20-year-old son who was working at Clackamas Town Center as the shopping center turned into a mall of death. “Mom there’s a shooter in the mall but I’m okay. We’re locked in,” Chad said as I ran my debit card through the scanner at Safeway and the clerk handed me my receipt. “Turn on the TV now,” he continued. Miracle number one Chad was safe. Miracle number two God blessed me with faulty processing and I thought he said that there had been a shooting – not that it was live and happening.
My husband was in the truck waiting and we drove the three blocks home, dumped the three items I got on the counter and turned on the TV. With the announcer’s first words my heart stumbled and tears started to form. The shots were outside Barnes and Noble—right next to J C Penney’s where Chad was. We were hearing that rounds were still being shot. I called Chad. No answer. I texted him, but very slowly because I’m a newbie and because my hands were trembling like I had Parkinson. No response. I tried again as the anchor continued talking about people locked in and no one knowing how many shooters there may be. Two dead. The words ran around and around in my brain and I was desperate to know, “Was Chad still alright?” I abruptly stopped trying to reach him.
“What if the shooter was outside where he was hiding and the ringing or pinging of Chad’s phone was telling him—the shooter or shooters—where my son was?” Then I did what I should have done first. I prayed. Haltingly, and even now as tears blur the keyboard, I hope God hears a mother’s heart when the words just won’t form. Pings on both my and my husband’s cells almost simultaneously. “I’m okay,” texted Chad. “Thank you God”. He was still safe.
More tears, more unspoken prayers, more trying not to panic. I flipped the channel and new details moved the shooter down to center of the mall—food court. TWO DEAD. “God help everyone.” Panic. My son’s fiancée worked in the food court at Jamba Juice—first booth. Jessica. “Oh God, please not Jessica.” I wasn’t sure what time the two of them started—they might be working or maybe they were together not yet on the clock. I emailed my two sisters and asked them to pray. My fingers carried me onto Facebook—which I randomly check – sometimes daily, but often days stretch in between. There was a post from Jessica. Miracle three. Jessica was sick and didn’t go to work.
A call from Chad. They were locked in. But more damage to my heart. He had seen the people running in trying to flee and yelling that there was a shooter. Chad said he called LP (Loss prevention) and told them a shooter was in the mall. He was told to go help shut and lock the stores’ door. Later that night he told me how scared he was but that he did it–his ROTC experience and faith kicked in. My son ran into danger—not from it. I’m so proud of him and so thankful to God that He was with so many.
Miracle four. The shooter went the other direction. There were people not so lucky. My heart goes out to each of the victims’ families. To the shooter’s family…to every person in that mall. To the police and all the people who helped each other—you are my heroes. Chad has a lot of horrific and survival memories–of gunshots, people helping each other through the wait and things in his mind, heart and subconscious. Of swat teams, humongous weapons and emergency lights. I have my own–not nearly as scary, but to a mom it was two hours of terror.