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Things that affected us this summer

by Lisa Zane August 28, 2012
Things that affected us this summer

I did not see the shooter. I did not see a bullet. I did not see any blood. I did not know the loud sounds I heard were gunshots. I saw the chaos. I was alone. I did not know what was happening. I was scared.

I had just finished eating chicken pot pie with my parents at the Canadian Pie Company and looking for a monster costume for my cousin’s fifth birthday present. They dropped me off at the Eaton Centre so I could pick up a pair of shoes I had tried on earlier that day. They went to look at apartments and agreed to pick me up as soon as I was finished. Just before 6 p.m., I called and told them I was done. My mom asked if I wouldn’t mind hanging around the mall a little while longer—they had one more apartment they wanted to see.

Shortly after this conversation, I found myself on the second floor, immediately above the Urban Eatery. I walked south towards Queen Street and made my way down the escalator directly in the middle of the mall, on route to Shoppers Drug Mart to kill some time. On my descent, I heard popping noises, and remember thinking that they sounded like balloons bursting.

The next few moments were chaos. I saw a crowd of people whip around from the backside of the escalator I was riding and start to run up as quickly as they could. I remember the faces. The panic I felt prompted me not to think about why they wore those expressions, but only to run. I sprinted up the “down” escalator as quickly as I could, and ran into the closest store— Guess Accessories.

In hindsight, this was not the best decision, since a child playing hide and go seek would know not to choose to hide in an open-concept white store, surrounded only by glass.

A group of about ten of us were ushered by a woman who worked at the store into the employee room at the back. The woman came in, and told us we were on lockdown— the store had received a message that there was a shooter in the mall. Those were the only details we received. I hid behind a couch, beside a mother and her daughter.

I don’t know how long we were in the back room. It was a precarious situation to be in. I was unsure of how the situation would unfold. I sent a brief text message to my mom at 6:33 p.m. Someone is shooting in the mall…I’m safe and in the back of a store.

The store was notified to open its doors and we were told that we could leave. While we were huddled in the room, a woman who worked at the store told me that that was the second time they were notified to go on lockdown. Something had happened a few moments earlier and they had been notified to close the store, but she told me they had received a message telling them everything was fine and to reopen. After hearing this, I chose not to leave the store immediately. I did not want to go back into the mall if it wasn’t safe. It was a bizarre feeling—I knew I had to go back if I wanted to get out.

When I left the employee room, a woman stood at the front of the store and yelled at me to run as fast as I could towards the nearest exit. It was only then that I realized how disoriented I had been running up the escalator. I could have hung a right instead of going into the store and been safe and out on Yonge Street in a few seconds.

I ran out as fast as I could before the building was locked down. I still had no idea what had just happened but what I did know was that I wanted to get the hell away. I ran down Yonge Street until I was away from the mall. I called my parents, who had not heard from me since the text message—it had been about half-an- hour. They came to pick me up, and on the drive home told me that they wanted to call me right after the text message was sent, but decided not to in case my phone rang and the shooter found me where I was hiding.

It is one month later and I don’t know how to explain what I am feeling except rattled. It seems so ludicrous to me that so many of us, right at the epicenter of the shooting, only found out what happened inside the mall days after the fact and are continuing to be filled in on the details weeks later.

There are thousands of perspectives and so many details that people will carry with them forever. It did not feel real until I read and saw news reports about what had happened. I left Toronto the next day, and started my first day of journalism school here at Concordia the day after that. It felt both unsettling and liberating for me to leave the city immediately after the shooting.

Two men were killed as a result of the shooting and six were injured in the gunfire. Of the fatally wounded, one was killed instantly and one remained in critical condition until June 11, when he died as a result of his injuries. One of the surviving victims, a 13-year-old boy, was shot in the head while in the food court with his mother and older sister. He was released from hospital a week later, wearing a custom helmet to protect the part of his skull that was removed to reduce brain swelling.

The motive behind the shooting was believed to have been a personal dispute between the shooter and the two men who died—all members of the same gang. The alleged shooter currently faces two first-degree murder charges and six counts of attempted murder.

I did not know the young boy who was shot in the head, the two men who died, or any of the other victims, but feel connected in some eerie way to the people who just happened to be inside the mall on that Saturday afternoon.

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