Saturday was a busy day for us. Landon is leaving for Switzerland tomorrow, so we spent the morning working on getting him ready. I had to go in to work from 11:00-3:00, then we picked up our niece for a couple of hours, worked on laundry, and finally took a trip to the BYU bookstore for some new toys (more on that later). By the time we got done with everything, it was 7:00. My mom came to dinner Sunday (Happy Mother's Day!), and we knew that with her coming over, we had to go to the store. Landon requested lasagna as his "farewell meal," and we didn't have much in the way of respectable food in the house. So we packed ourselves up and went to Smith's.
We spent about an hour there, carefully choosing the groceries we needed. We found some awesome stuff: corn on the cob (my mom's favorite) was on sale, we stocked up on produce and a big bag of cheese to divide for the freezer; we picked up two boxes of baking soda so we'd have one for food storage, and we filled up our cart with the makings of a really excellent salad. We had just pulled up to the check out line and were still debating whether or not I should run and grab us some lunch meat, or if we could make do with peanut butter until I get paid again.
As we were talking, I noticed a bit of a commotion in the corner. Something just wasn't right. I turned my head to see what was happening and saw a small group of uniformed men obviously scuffling with someone in the middle of the group. I turned back to tell Landon, and heard a very loud voice bore into my brain:
"Put the gun down, NOW!"
While this was still registering in my head, a woman in a Smith's uniform stepped out and started yelling, "Get down, everybody down!" I was panicked, I froze. I was still processing all of this information. Luckily Landon was right next to me, grabbed my hand, and started running.
And then we heard a gunshot behind us. Then another, and another.
We kept running as fast as we could. Landon stayed calm and made a beeline for the stock room. There we ran into a young employee (probably 17 or so), his friend, and an older couple who had started running right behind us. All the while the shots kept firing in rapid succession. We felt like the shots were aimed right at us, like they were getting closer. We swore we heard footfalls behind us at every turn. The employee led us through a maze of boxes and pallets to a loading dock area. The dock door was closed, and the smaller exit next to the dock had a padlock on it. We had reached a dead end.
Just as we reached the door, a female voice came over the PA system, saying, "Everyone get on the floor and stay there." We all dropped behind a large stack of pallets that were in front of the door. It was a very confined space. The Smith's employee was cursing under his breath, saying what the rest of us were thinking (and honestly, if there's ever a time to use those words, this was IT). His friend was silent, white-faced. I was holding onto Landon with one hand, still clutching my shopping list in the other. I started to cry a little, and was shaking. Strange thoughts ran through my head, trying to count shots to tell if the gunman was out of bullets - because I am my father's daughter, panicking for a moment when I realized I'd left my cellphone (the police were already there, a cell phone was entirely unnecessary at that point), and having flashbacks to the terrorist drill we'd been through in high school. And I just kept telling Landon over and over that I loved him. Landon was praying, and holding me down and close to him, protecting me. The gentleman behind us was also praying quietly.
After what seemed like an eternity (although I'm sure it was less than a minute), the employee began squirming around in the confined space, fishing for the keys in his pocket. He handed them to the other kid and asked him to try each key in case it fit the padlock, not sounding very hopeful. The first key he tried fit, and the door sprung open. The first two guys (Smith's employee and friend) bolted out of the door very fast. The woman behind me warned, "I think we ought to go slowly in case the police are out there." Taking her advice, we eased our way out of the door with our hands held in the open.
(This was after I got my phone back, so most of the emergency vehicles are gone, but you can still see the police tape)
What met our eyes was a scene of slight panic, people running away, at least 10 police vehicles in the parking lot, two ambulances, and two fire engines.There were still more police arriving. We kept running right out of the parking lot and down the street, with the intention of going to a friend's house who lived close...they weren't home and we realized we'd be much safer by all of the police officers, so we walked back to the parking lot. We also called our good friends Jesse and Catherine, in case we needed a ride home. A police office came and briefly talked to us, asking if we'd been in the store. He also volunteered to go and search for my purse, which was left in our cart along with all of our un-bought groceries and my cell phone. My heart was still pounding.
Jesse and Catherine came and helped to calm us down and waited with us for about 45 minutes before the officer came back with my purse in hand. We were then allowed to leave. It was surreal to climb into our car and drive away like everything was completely normal. And, after all of that, we still really needed to go to the grocery store, because like it or not, there was no food in our house. We opted for the small neighborhood market about two blocks away from our house. Overpriced, but secluded. We rushed through, picking up only the bare essentials (and a quart of Dreyer's ice cream, because there was a serious need for comfort food).
We stayed up together until about 2am, just sitting close, watching a lighthearted movie, eating ice cream straight from the carton, reading to each other, checking the news, and being together. It was hard to go to sleep that night. It was hard to calm down. It was hard to realize how blessed we'd been, that we were both still alive, together, safe. But we are. We've been praying over and over again, prayers of gratitude and humility.
We have since learned that the gunman was trying to shoplift a case of beer, and was angry when the store security tried to stop him. He became violent, and they called the police. When the police arrived (which is what I saw, them running in), he pulled out a gun. The police shot the man, who died at the scene. See the news story here.
Today, we're just very grateful for all that we've been blessed with. We're heartbroken for the man's family. We are so glad the police force responded promptly, and were willing to do their jobs so that the rest of us could be here today. And we keep sending messages back and forth, just making sure that we're still here, and that we tell each other enough, "I love you."