Yesterday afternoon, I was at the Clackamas Town Center when a shooter opened fire with an assault rifle. It’s all over the news, of course. Most people probably know more about it than I do because, to be honest, I’ve mostly avoided the news.

That said, I want to talk about the event as I experienced it. A lot of people have asked questions on Twitter, but that’s not the easiest place to go into detail. So what follows is to the best of my memory, which is, of course, not the most reliable.

First, there are two critical points: I was not hurt, and I did not actually see what happened. Other people saw more and experienced worse than I did.

At about 3:30pm, I was walking out of the mall, eating a pretzel and reading Twitter when I heard a sequence of very loud bangs and felt a strange pitter of pressure against the back of my neck. People near me screamed and ran toward the exit ahead. For a moment, I didn’t understand what was going on. I walked, phone in hand, until I got outside. People continued to run past me, and I heard snippets of talk: “…gunfire…” “…shooter…” “…at least a dozen shots…”

It was only then that I realized what happened. The next thing I did was write a tweet:

The gravity of the situation hadn’t caught up up with me. A woman walked near me, sobbing. I started to reach out for her, but then a man ran up from the other direction and hugged her. They were both crying, and near as I can tell they’d gotten separated inside. Another woman saw the phone in my hand and said should call 9-1-1. “I’m sure lots of people have,” I said, but she said she thought I should anyway. “I would,” she said, “but I don’t have my phone.”

9-1-1 was busy.

Then I tweeted again.

I didn’t run. I never ran. Not out of some kind of inner calm or bravery, I assure you. I was numb. Then I was shaking. I couldn’t find my car at first. People were driving off, sirens were getting closer and all I could think was my car was gone. I didn’t think it was stolen. I thought I hadn’t driven. Did I take the bus? How had I gotten there? I wanted to cry, but I thought if I start crying I won’t be able to find my car. Then I turned around and it was behind me, a few steps away.

I got behind the wheel, and that’s when I started crying. Looking back, I can see that I responded to a couple of tweets from concerned friends, but I have no memory of that. I remember calling my wife and getting her voice mail, and then I remember my agent, Janet calling. She’d seen my tweets and was worried about me. Talking to her helped a lot. Describing what I experienced calmed me down. It’s possible I’m remembering the order of events wrong. My brain tells me I called my wife first, but I also remember talking to Janet about how I needed to call my wife. In any case, not long after my wife called me back and that helped me even more.

In retrospect, I think about those tweets and I wonder what the hell was I thinking? Honestly, nothing. Tweeting? I was scared, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. I wasn’t thinking clearly, if at all. But that wasn’t the way I would have wanted my family and friends to find out I’d been so close to an event like this. Still, Janet later said she was glad I tweeted because that’s how she knew to call me.

It leaves me with a lot to think about. Why I reacted the way I did, how others reacted. I know there is a lot of cellphone video out there now. I never occurred to my to do that, but tweeting? First thing.

Something else I’m thinking about is a tweet I made 15 minutes before the shooting:

If I’d had any idea what was coming I certainly never would have tweeted such a thing. In the moment, it was the crush of people, the wash of Axe body spray and perfume, and the kiosk workers shoving things at me that I blithely described as “assault.”

Right now, I’d give anything for the chance to walk through the mall and experience it all again if only the real assault could never have happened.

I still have a lot to process. I worry about people I saw there, including a mom and her kids at the pretzel stand when I was getting my pretzel. I think about the woman sobbing near the Barnes and Noble until her husband or boyfriend found her. I think about how if I’d walked a little slower or a little faster, I’d have been closer or further from the attack. How close was I? Likely farther than it felt in the moment, but still too close. Everyone there was too close.

An event like this makes no sense. In my view, it’s a species of arrogance to expect an event like this to make sense. It’s not a punishment from God, or an act of the Illuminati. Obama didn’t order it. The GOP didn’t cause it. I don’t yet know anything about the shooter, but whatever they find out about him, it’s on him.

So now I get on with my day. Take a shower, get dressed, meet with a client. Work on a web site. Write a poem. Give belly scritches to the poodle and head scritches to the kitty. And think about that mom and her kids from the pretzel stand, sure. But most importantly, love my wife, and love my kids, and dream about my grandkid on the way, and just continue living.

Edit: I’ve got comment moderation active. I’ve gotten a few weird ones, and I don’t want to pollute the comments with rants and irrelevant freak-outs. That said, I have a big meeting to go to shortly, and that means even good comments may sit in moderation for a while. Please be patient. I appreciate your thoughtful additions and will approve them as soon as I can.

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