Yesterday there was a shooting at Southcenter Mall in Washington. This isn't anything new. There has been shootings at this mall before. It's nowhere near where I live, but we will sometimes drive the hour and half + to get there for birthdays because there's a Rainforest Cafe there. Anything that happens at this mall rarely has an immediate effect on my life and I can count the number of times we go there on one hand. The difference was that yesterday, my daughter was at a birthday party at this mall.
Being a parent brings out the realization that we can't be with your kids 24/7 and if we were, I'm not sure how healthy that would be for anyone. There are times when they are off without you and you have keep in faith in your pocket that they will return safely and that nothing will happen.
Yesterday watching the "breaking news" story unfold about the mall shooting and knowing my daughter was at the mall was a surreal nightmare on a day of Apple Cup football and cinnamon rolls. Not being able to get a hold of the cellphone of the mom who was with her was a snapshot of how I imagine purgatory. Strange things on the news would give me faith that everything was all right. "A teenage boy was shot in a scuffle," rearranged itself into the message, "It wasn't your daughter." "It might be gang-related" became "This was not a mass killing with a gunman randomly shooting."
When I finally got a hold of the mom, she was in the theatre's bathroom in the mall. They were safe and under lockdown at the movie. In fact, they were watching the end of the movie Bolt then would wait for police to escort them out. The girls were all fine and actually, only one girl was a little nervous about what was happening. I learned later that my daughter was just thrilled she got a buy a giant pretzel at the concession stand while they waited.
I was thankful to hear they were all okay, even more thankful to talk to my daughter via cellphone on her drive back (btw, on the phone she mentioned nothing about the shooting or being locked in the theatre and in fact went on about Pokemon figures her friend had received for her birthday and a puppy they had seen). I was truly thankful to finally pick her up at the friend's 5 hours later from when I first heard the "Breaking News" story, when I first thought, My God, please let her be safe.
As a writer, I find I can create in my mind a bazillion terrible tragedies if I let myself. While I am pretty optimistic in nature, there is another part of me that can see danger looming around any corner. As parents now, we are constantly being made aware of every danger, every scary thing that could happen to our children. We "child-proof" our homes. We cover the corners on our coffee table with soft sticky foam so they don't bump their head if the fall. But we can't keep our kids locked up from a world that scares us (as much as we may want to keep them in a plastic bubble). I have lived long enough to know there are corners throughout this world, corners we will never be able to cover so we just have to say our prayers and set them out into the world and hope they do not bump into them.
So, I know what I will be giving thanks for this Thanksgiving week, that all of our loved ones arrive safely and that while this world has its treacherous moments, when we look out windows I hope we don't see a world where tragedy happens, but a world where we can be sometimes be near danger and still be okay.