A family friend was shopping at the Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, Aug. 11, when a faux shooting took place. The panic, so soon after shootings in El Paso and Dayton, can be verified online. This is our friend’s story, used with permission and lightly edited for length.
I went to Memorial City Mall in Houston to take advantage of a tax-free weekend. While cashing out, I heard gunshots, and a tsunami of people stormed through the store to get to the back exit. I pulled my Ruger LCP .380 from the side of my backpack, attached it to my waistline and shoved extra magazines into my bra. (I didn’t have room in my pockets for the magazines because I had a pocket knife on my carry side, and girls’ pockets are unreasonably small.) Securing my bag over my shoulders, I scooped up my daughter from the stroller and ran for an exit.
I ran through the exit door and down through a tunnel toward the exit to the parking lot and thought, ‘I’m not going to be the first person through that exit.’ I stepped into a doorway for protection and to let the chaotic stampede go first.
I noticed a young mom with a toddler on her hip and an infant in a stroller shoved against the wall by the panic. The woman was alone; no one stopped to help, so I grabbed her stroller and pushed her through the exit. My child held onto me tight around my neck.
Outside, we hid behind a pillar to gauge the environment. I escorted my new friend to her car and heard more gunshots and screaming, so I ducked behind the engines of SUVs. I basically low-crawled through the parking lot maze to my car. I put my daughter in her car seat and left.
Today brings gratitude in many ways. I’m thankful for first responders who ran toward the chaos. I’m thankful for mall security which tried to ease everyone’s fear and direct traffic. So many heroes.
I am thankful that my husband and I discuss such situations and practice drills. I wouldn’t have made it home without his leadership. Everything he told me about a mass panic actually happened. People didn’t care about others. Everyone screamed and cried. People froze in doorways. It was madness … and it was real.
I realize it’s easy for people to say, from the comfort of time and distance, ‘It was just fireworks.’ But so close to the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, that mall went from calm to chaos in seconds.
These events make me more thankful that we have the Second Amendment. I’m now more confident about carrying and will use any means to protect my family. Today was about intentional harm and chaos. Some people will use any means to create hysteria and no amount of gun control or ‘red flag’ laws will prevent things like today.
People need training and logic. Stop feeding emotions and create a plan. Practice PACE: Primary, Alternative, Contingency, Emergency. Look for exits and never get caught by the herd.
To people who say, ‘Removing weapons would be the answer,’ you are completely wrong, especially while luxuriating in first-world comforts. Don’t wait for politicians to save you. Practice. Arm yourself. Talk security with your family.
Today’s mall events won’t prevent me from being in crowds. The people who created today’s panic can’t intimidate me. I know my daughter and I are safe.
My daughter seemed to be the only child not feeding on the hysteria. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t. I didn’t cry until I got into my car and my daughter said, ‘Mommy, you’re brave.’ Then I lost it. I’m forever grateful that I live in this beautiful country.
Though the shooting turned out to be fake, the panic felt by those involved was real. Do you know how you would have reacted? In my opinion, this young lady’s foresight, calm and care for others on her way out makes her one of America’s everyday heroes.
About Rick Sapp
Rick Sapp earned his Ph.D. in social anthropology after his time in the U.S. Army working for the 66th Military Intelligence Group, USAREUR, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following his time in Paris, France, he worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing. Along with being published in several newspapers and magazines, Rick has authored more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.