My five kids and I went to Garden State Plaza last night in what would end up being a life altering chain of events.
We parked outside Macy’s, walked from the carousel all the way to the Gap where we shopped for a bit, and then headed to Nordstrom. The mall was pretty quiet and it was a routine trip.
At Nordstrom, one of my sons went to the second floor, while the younger children and I stopped at the shoe department on the lower level.
Suddenly, I heard a loud bang. I looked around, but no one else reacted, so I figured that one of the stores closed its heavy metal
gates. Loudly. Then the bang came again. By this time, I had a strange feeling that something was not right.
Fortunately, my eldest son had already returned to the lower level by then. My middle son was trying on clothes in the fitting room. Joyce, a lovely sales associate who has worked at Nordstrom for 17 years, asked that I come check my son’s pants for sizing. Then another blast.
I turned to Joyce and asked if that was a normal noise for the mall. Then people started running and saying the words you never want to hear: “There’s a man with a gun shooting—get out!”
At first, you don’t know where to go to be safe. Is there a safe place when there’s a gunman on the loose?
Then I knew I had to collect all the kids! Where was my son in the dressing room? Miraculously, he had come out to find me. He was still wearing the store’s clothes. Funny that in these surreal moments, we worried about walking out with clothes we didn’t own! He was shoeless. And we were all shaking, except for my eldest son who seemed unfazed. Joyce reassured us that it was ok to leave and that we should get out. Fast.
So where does a person go mentally in these moments when your life and the safety of your family are on the line?
We stood outside and the first thought that came to me was to pray for the poor souls who were still inside. So I stood there with my kids and told them to say a prayer of thanks that we got out and to hold in their hearts all the people who did not. We held each other shaking and crying, each one of us trying to come to terms with what was happening.
The sad truth is that we in America are no longer strangers to these seemingly random events. Though I lived in Israel for five years and terrorist attacks occurred all too often, I never experienced anything like this and always felt safe. There, people act on behalf of a holy war. While it doesn’t justify killing, it is how people understand it. Terrorists. In the name of Jihad. Believe me, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Yet it is a way of life. The security measures across the country and in the malls are a matter of course. Now America is dealing with a terrorist threat of a different nature.
Here, we grapple to come to terms with the random acts of killing that are becoming prevalent in this country—in THIS land—the United States of America.
Perhaps that is the key to our solution. We are no longer a country united, but a country divided. Whether it is politics, opinions, computers, violence in the media, the war fighting any cause or disease, we seem to be a country torn. The famous phrase “United we stand, divided we fall” never appeared so relevant.
After all, the division is merely an illusion. Even physicists have long discovered the invisible threads that bind us all together in one fabric. Those who have returned from near-death experiences share a common report: we are all ONE.
So, at the end of this traumatic event that my kids and I will continue to process together, I offer this prayer to the Universe.
May humanity awaken to love, peace, and to the original intention built into the fabric of our country and this planet: “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is our only hope.
Photo credits: Anastasiya Maksymenko/photos.com