Lying flat on the floor in primal, adrenaline-laced horror and fear, holding each other’s trembling hands while telling each other “I love you” in hushed whispers – all while bullets raced through glass and drywall like paper and shells of both rifles and pistols clattered to the ground – is not a scene either my husband or I ever expected our lives to contain. Tuesday night, that all changed.
I left work for the day at lunch, taking sick time for crummy feelings that just got worse as morning turned to afternoon. We chilled out for a few hours, my mom came by to drop off a small care package, and we were by ourselves again after a time. We got back to sitting on the couch, watching whatever we decided on – then in an instant, everything switched from calm to chaos.
First, we heard the ‘pop! pop!’ of a pistol high above (later confirmed to be from the shooter who chose the top of the stairwell of OUR unit as his perch, so no wonder it sounded the way it did), and we shared a look that said everything. “That’s not fireworks – get down.” Instinct or being taught of gun safety in active shooter situations constantly ever since the 1999 Columbine school massacre, or a strange combination of both, kicked in and we hit the floor just before the spray of semi-automatic rifles punctured the air. It was so much louder than I could’ve imagined up close, rattling every last nerve in my body as adrenaline gripped me and kept my breathing shallow, bearing down on us like an unending explosion.
It went on for what felt like an eternity but was in reality about 20-30 seconds. That’s still horrifically impressive. My husband had gotten down and made it to the back room but I was stuck in front of the couch. As soon as I registered the slightest hesitation in the gunfire, I bolted to the back. As he yelled at me to get down, I practically slid in, grabbed his hand, we said we loved each other, and then – silence.
That was it.
We got up cautiously but survival mode kicked in for me, and I started going around the apartment taking note of what I saw. It wasn’t much: a bullethole in one of nine windowpanes in our unnecessarily huge window, a missing blind – fallen behind the couch from the force of the passing bullet – and a hole on the far wall. (I didn’t even notice the final exit and lodging place of the bullet, inside our hall closet, until a police officer came in to do a quick once-over of damage and possible evidence.)
After minutes of silence followed by people speaking quietly outside, we decided we could open the window blinds enough to look out. What we saw was unreal.
The police found over 100 shell casings, some lodged in the brick walls, some in residents’ apartments, and the rest littering the parking lot. Police weren’t yet on the scene so it looked like a war zone, or like someone had taken all the shells of spent ammo from the gun range and scattered them everywhere. Black-tinted glass glittered in giant chunks and shards, resting on the ground in a now-empty parking spot. Police arrived after what felt like hours but was probably only 10-15 minutes. We’ve gotten much more acquainted with our neighbors now, so at least that’s one good thing.
We were out there with officers for about two hours. It took them even longer to clean up, and it still isn’t done.
I want to continue this, but not tonight. I’m the weird combo of exhausted of talking about it, and compelled to talk about it. I’m trying to address and express my thoughts and feelings after this, because I know from experience that burying this or pushing it aside “to deal with later” never ends well. I have only cried a little, but I know more is on the horizon. I need to cut this short tonight because I’ve reached my limit for it for today – and okay, because it’s 1am too.
Ending part one… for more emotional fallout and juicy deets of the situation, stay tuned.