Thursday, February 15, 2007

Trolley Square

I think it's important for me to write down my experience with the shooting at Trolley Square. First of all, I want to say that I am healthy both physically and mentally. So many things could have gone wrong for those of us in Sharper Image and none of them did. I didn't see the gunman, I didn't see any dead or injured bodies. I didn't even see any blood. I feel thankful that I don't have any traumatic images in my head. But I will tell what happened.

Monday isn't a very busy day for Trolley Square or us at Sharper Image. I remember just waiting around for customers. Around dinner time we had a lot of browsers from Spaghetti Factory in the store. People have to wait to get in, so they browse around our store. I was helping my co-worker get a product for a customer and couldn't find it in our store room. I came back and told her I couldn't find and maybe she'd have better luck. So she went to the storeroom.

I started to help the next customer with her return. After I'd exited the back and was helping the woman, we could noises from somewhere. I thought they sounded like illegal fireworks. Our store is below a restaurant and we hear a lot of what goes on up there. When they break a glass it sounds like something is breaking in our store. I remember looking up and saying to the customer, "I wonder what they're doing." There were at least a dozen of those sounds.

I don't know quite what happened next, but I remember a woman screaming and everyone in the store hitting the ground and ducking. Someone must have said that there was a gun or shots or something. I was behind the register and grabbed the phone there. The woman I was helping crawled behind the register too. I first dialed mall security but the line was busy. Then I dialed 911. I couldn't get through to them either. I tried twice. I remember looking up from the floor to at the man close to me. He wasn't on the ground. I thought, "Why aren't you on the floor?"

A few moments later, my co-worker crept around the side from the back room and asked what was going on. Afterwards I found out that a customer had come back there and told her about the gunman. She asked me if we should get everyone in the back. I said that we should. So we yelled for all of our customers to come to the back. Our emergency exit is right next to our storage room door too. One couple went out that door outside. I remember thinking, "They may be going to their death. Maybe the guy is out there."

We got all of the customers into the back room. The door is a swinging door. It only swings inward, but it has no lock. We pushed in the little orange door jambs, but then decided to push our safe in front of the door. So my co-worker and I pulled it out and put it in the way.

Our back room is narrow at first and then opens up wider with the shelves. We had everyone move back so if he looked in the little window, he wouldn't be able to see us. We had about 17 people back there. There were two mothers, one with three children and the other with two. The Hispanic mother was very scared and crying. There was also a young Hispanic woman who was crying and scared too. People were on their cell phones calling loved ones or police or whoever. I texted my roommate and told him I was okay and did the same for our assistant manager. Then I called my mom.

The conversation went something like this:
"Hey mom. This is Scott."
"Hi Scott, how're you doing?"
"Not so good. There's been a shooting here but I'm safe. Turn on the news and watch. The phone is ringing I need to go. I love you."

And then I hung up. Our telephone in the back room was ringing. I didn't know if it was the police or security or what. So I slunk up to the front by the door and grabbed the phone. It was another of our co-workers. He was finding out if we were okay. I asked him if it was still going on and what was happening. He said that the news didn't really know. But that there might be two gunmen. I asked him if it was on a radio station and he gave me one. I went back to everyone else and turned on the radio. Everyone quieted down to listen. Our phone rang again and I went up again. It was another co-worker. I told him we were okay.

When I went back again I called 911 on my cell phone and got through. That was at 6:56. The dispatch asked me where we were. I told him that we were in the back of the Sharper Image. He asked how many people we had. I asked the people to count. As they were counting, he kinda asked harder, "How many people are there?" Seventeen was the last number I heard so I told him that. I asked if we could come out yet. He said no. We needed to stay back there until the police came to get us. He asked for my name and phone number. I gave it to him. Then we ended the call.

After that a man wanted to borrow my cell phone, so I lent it to him. Our desk phone rang again so I crept up there to answer. This time it was one of the news stations. They wanted to know if we were in the mall. I told them yes and that we were barricaded in. He asked if I would do a live interview. I paused, I didn't know what to think. He said to just hold on the line and he would transfer me. The phone started ringing and then it went dead. I hung up and went to the back. The phone rang again so I went up and answered again. It was the news guy again. I told him no and then hung up. Then I unplugged the phone. I could hear the radio station we were listening to on the conversation with the guy. I didn't want the people in the back with us hearing me. That was stupid and dangerous.

I went back to the rest of the people. I remember that my co-worker seemed a little scared so put my arm around her. I don't know how much longer it was. But someone pounded hard on the back room door. We jumped and everyone ducked. We thought it was the killer. My co-worker and I peeked around the corner. I could see police and guns through the little window. They yelled out, "Police! Put your hands in the air!" I put them like about shoulder high. They yelled to put them higher. I put them all the way up. They told me to walk slowly forward. I walked to the door and told them that we had a safe in front of the door and that I needed to do it. Then I opened the door. They asked how many people we had back there. I told them. They told us to go up the front of the store. I yelled back to everyone that it was the police and we needed to go out.

We all filed out single file behind the registers. We all had to keep our hands up. I was at the front of the line and my co-worker was at the back. She made sure everyone came from the back. Some were plainclothes policemen with bullet vests and some were in uniform. Some of them had machine gun looking things too. They filed us out to the front entrance of the store. One policeman who seemed to be in charge had two other policemen go to the entrance to the mall and make sure it was safe. Then they moved us out to the handicapped parking lot. We all had to put our hands on the wall and assume the position to be frisked. As I waited to be frisked, there was an older woman next to me. She said, "I'm used to being frisked. Every time I go to the airport they have to frisk me because of my two metal hips." I laughed.

They frisked us all and then had us get paper and pens and write down our information. We needed to write down our name, address, phone number and birth date. They said after that, we could leave. There were some policemen on the balcony above us. We could hear them trying to do something up there. Then we heard gunshots and the muzzle flashes. We all hit the ground and the cop next to us yelled in his walkie-talkie, "Shots fired upstairs!" The cops up there, yelled down, "No, no! We're just opening the door!" That scared us so much!

It was freezing outside and most of us didn't have jackets. We were all huddled together as we waited to write down our information. Eventually small groups of us left and went across the street. We waited around at the corner unsure what to do. I was thinking of the store being open and that people could loot or steal stuff. We moved kittycorner and then asked a cop if they were going to keep the mall secure or what. He didn't know how long it would be or if they mall would be secure. Not long after we met up with my roommate and our assistant manager. We got in the car and got warmed up. I asked if we had blankets because we had some customers out there who couldn't get to their cars and didn't have anything warm. So we brought them blankets.

Eventually they brought buses and we got on them to keep warm. I gave my name and info again to a policeman and told him to write that I was the manager on duty and to call me when we could shut the store. It wasn't too long after that we got to leave.

I'm going to write more of what happened after all this in another post. The Sharper Image company has been so good to my co-worker and I. They have really taken care of us since the event. But I just want to say how thankful and lucky I feel. Heavenly Father was looking over us in our store. Everything that could have gone wrong for us didn't. We were able to keep ourselves and all of our customers safe. I am so thankful.


mightybob said...

i read this a while ago - sorry i haven't commented yet. i'm so glad you and the people around you were being watched over and protected. experiences like this one with the dark side of human nature are difficult to cope with. i'm glad you're doing ok. i love you, bigred (not in a weird way, don't worry)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your safe, Big Red Hammer.