The Eve.

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Today was horrible. At work today, a gunman opened fired elsewhere in the mall. I wasn’t near the incident but it was the after effects that were frightening. A stampede of frantic people came running, customers and staff equally confused. At first a few runners then an entire platoon swarmed the hallway. We ran to the back, anxiously awaiting whatever was happening. Some stayed, others ran. I did at first, but came back. It was then quiet and people left at various paces. I left the store to find everything abandonded. Strollers, shoes, bags. And then brothers, children and families. Different colored faces full of the same tears, anger and fear clawing out of throats in the form of cursing. Eyes, so many eyes. I walked around the once full mall. How quickly it all happened, but time felt like it jet lagged through it all. I began to help, contacting security to help other stores evacuate their customers. I watched as men and women in green vests escorted a group outside, all of them holding hands like a game of ring around the rosey. Other mall employees joined in, we put our name badges to the side to help those who were afraid. And then more running, people claiming other shots were being fired. Pincered between the first outbreak and the second possible shooter. We hid in a back room, trying to share laughs. My boss and best friend on the phone, trying to contact all of his employees. Frantic. He kept them safe though, and got them out. We were the last two, men in bulletproof vests patrolling the hallways. Police sirens blaring outside but faint where we were. We walked out of the store, then ran into another employee in the mall. She worked for a different store, one I previously worked at. She told me a pregnant woman was still inside her back room. We found a security guard and watched as this woman in uniform helped a complete stranger out of a perilous situation. And we left to find that the world was just as bad on the outside. Police cars lined up, dozens of men in black, ready for whatever. For the first time as a black male, I was thankful for the police presence. Helicopters and grey clouds above. Even the sky began to weep, the rain coming down on our hats. We watched as other survivors began huddling, each telling their own recount of their escape. And then the picture came. A man shot dead in journeys, the same journeys I walk past everyday to get a cookie. The same place where converse and boots are sold, now became the resting place for a brother. I’m not sure how to feel after this. Will I ever have a good Christmas Eve again? The images of abandonment were so strong. When you see a child cry for a parent or a mother constantly shouting the name Christian in the air you begin to question, why? I don’t know, and I’m not sure if I want to know what was being asked exactly but I know that my answer will not be the right one. But I’m blessed to be alive and share this story

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