Sunday, January 26, 2014

Choose Civility, Our Shaken Community

I love Columbia. In fact, twice this week I had conversations with friends about how much I love my town, how I grew up here, and how I wouldn’t mind living here forever. That may sound close-minded, you know, you grow up and move out of your hometown, but we have everything here. A great sense of community:

Back when I went off to college, I visited a friend’s home and she had a “real” mailbox. I had only ever really seen one when I was at my grandma’s house and I was a little kid. She thought it was funny that I found a mailbox so cool, but in Columbia we don’t have mailboxes at each door – we have community mailboxes, so that you see your neighbors when you go out to get your mail. As an adult, I appreciate them, and they’re cooler than “real” mailboxes.

We have ten village centers, a great college and public school system, shopping, dining, parks, lakes, gyms, pools, ice skating, sport organizations and venues, horseback riding, nature centers, a terrific music venue, festivals, anything you could think of, all right at your fingertips. And, until now, there has always been the sense of security that wherever you go, you are 'pretty much' safe.

Evening coverage on local news.
Yesterday morning, one of my best friends called me to say “Don’t go to the mall, there is an active shooter.” In a community where a normal thing to do on a frigidly cold Saturday is head over to the mall for window shopping and lunch, why would you think any different? I immediately started texting friends and family the same thing, posting on Facebook, and reading all my friends/neighbor’s updates. Then I flipped on CNN and FoxNews for coverage of what was going on. Yes, our little mall was being covered by national news. We were the breaking story for several hours to come, and our whole house remained glued to the TV, safe inside our home.

I was not at the mall. I can only imagine how scary it was for everyone who was there. Even if they were safe, the act of being forced to hide, the thoughts that must go through one’s mind of what could be, it’s so scary. I feel sad for the two people who lost their lives and their grieving family members, and for the shooter who felt there was a need to go to that extreme, as well as his family. All three were under the age of 25, and one of them had a child of her own, it’s so sad.

And, even though I was home safe, all I could think was how our town’s name was now going to be marred by this event, just another example of what can happen. Looking at the video footage of SWAT team members and other law enforcement officials by our Sears, JCP, seeing the lot where I always park my car, the garage and bridge where I used to walk everyday in to work for years, seeing the names of our roads on TV, it was all surreal and very upsetting. It’s cool when your locale is on national TV, but not for something like this. Then I was slightly horrified when I noticed the top trending topics on twitter, for the United States setting, was #ColumbiaMall – that is our mall, our home. And everyone was talking about it. But other hash tags were popping up as well. #ColumbiaStrong #HocoStrong #HocoUnited - a positive sign, illustrating how we band together.

Whenever there is a tragedy, you hear people say “I can’t believe something like that could happen here,” because it’s your home. This is the absolute lesson that anything can happen, anywhere. However, as I mentioned before, we have a terrific sense of community here. I love how we band together in times like these; “Choose Civility” is our county’s motto. I am extremely proud of Ken Ulman, and Bill McMahon with how they represented Columbia and Howard County in front of the world yesterday. I am proud of our HoCo Police that were on the scene within two minutes. I am pleased to see how social networking was such an informative tool in not only getting the word out, but checking on friends who work in the mall, locating loved ones, and easing minds that people were okay and safe.

As horrific as this situation was, we were very lucky it was not worse, and we are lucky that our first responders were able to act as quickly as they did. Again I will say, I love my community, and I love my town, and I am proud to say that this is where I’m from.

These are just my thoughts, as I said I wasn't there, just a part of the community here. If you were at the mall when this happened, and want to share, feel free to leave your account in the comments here, or facebook/twitter message me.


  1. I'm really sorry about the shooting, Jacqueline. I can only imagine how something like that shakes the security of a community. It seems that no place is guaranteed immunity from trouble, but we can hope and pray for the best.

    1. It's scary, and it's heartbreaking for the families of the victims. You're right, it is an eye opener to remind us that shocking events can happen everywhere.

  2. I'm so sorry about the shooting, Jacqueline. I'm sure Columbia will get through it. I work in a mall and these rash of mall shooters (there was one in a New Jersey mall over holiday season) have made me nervous.

    1. It is a little nerve-wracking. It's sad when you're sitting in a classroom and those thoughts go through your mind when you hear loud noises in the hallway, and now that's extended to the mall. It's disappointing that that mentality has moved into my mind, as I am sure others.


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