It was Sunday, July 17th, 2022, around 4:30. We were headed north on US 31 crossing Fry Road, passing Greenwood Park Mall and County Line Road. A route I drive almost daily. It was pouring down rain.
The shooter, carrying his backpack, walked from his apartment on Fry Road toward Greenwood Park Mall where he arrived around 5:00 P.M.
Did we pass him? Did he cross the street while we were waiting at the stop light? Where was he while I ran into Fresh Thyme to buy strawberries for tomorrow’s breakfast? Was he walking in the torrential rain? Was he soaked when he arrived?
He walked into a restroom where he hid until almost 6:00 P.M.
Did he walk through the food court where families sat having dinner after an afternoon of shopping for back-to-school clothes? Did he decide where to begin his shooting rampage? Was he angry? Afraid? Did anyone notice him walk into the restroom carrying his backpack? Did he hide in a stall where he assembled his gun? Did his hands tremble in fear? Did he sit there wondering if he should go through with this, or did he have a timeline planned? What did he do for almost an hour?
We received a text that Jessica’s new arrival time was 5:24. Our rendezvous went perfectly. We drove southbound on 465, excitedly chatting, so happy to be together.
Just before 6:00 P.M., he stepped out of the restroom and into the food court.
The food court where my little family had enjoyed many lunches and dinners over the years. Where the kids could run off with a $20 bill to buy pizza, meeting their dad and me back at the table where we were set up with our loaded baked potato from Potatoes Etc. Where I dropped Michael off to work at Chick-fil-A or Jessica off to shop with friends.
As we headed south on US 31, we heard sirens. Lots of them. There were a few police cars parked at the mall entrance and small clumps of people were standing in the parking lot. I noticed a man, wearing a teal shirt, sitting alone on a curb in the parking lot.
Something was going on at the mall.
Shots fired. Innocent people were killed. A “Good Samaritan” with a gun killed the shooter before he could use the loads and loads of ammunition he had packed.
The stream of police cars barreling toward the mall, sirens ablaze, made our left turn across US 31 to pull into our neighborhood impossible. Someone said, “It’s a shooting.”
Four people, including the shooter, lost their lives in our little town, in our little mall that day. Heartbreaking and scary and tragic. I understand, but for the actions of a “Good Samaritan” buying cookies in the food court, it could have been so much worse. Certainly, he was brave. He acted unselfishly, and he saved lives. I’m grateful. I’m struggling.
Struggling that mass shootings seem to be the new pandemic in our country. Struggling that no one seems to have the will or the way to stop it. Struggling that we seem to be unable or unwilling to take an honest look at causes rather than outcomes. Struggling that when I heard the death count was “only” four and it was no one I knew, I was relieved. Struggling with the fallacies within the argument that allowing the freedom to own any type of gun and carry it in any public place could possibly result in fewer innocent people losing their lives to gun shot.
And I’m really just struggling with the use of the phrase “Good Samaritan” in this context. Consider its origin. The Bible. Jesus. His teachings. I can’t make it fit. Words are important. They have a denotative and a connotative meaning. They have origins. They can be used, misused, and confused. They emote. But make no mistake, they have power.
Theology aside, pop culture uses Good Samaritan to reference the doer of a good deed. It’s beyond ironic to put a young man into the position to carry out an act that should be reserved for trained policemen and soldiers, and then call him a Good Samaritan and a hero.
My hope, for all of our sakes, is that a green light is not lit for “good guys with guns.” And that when the story fades and this young Good Samaritan and his girlfriend, who were in the food court at the mall on a Sunday afternoon, begin to suffer the effects of the trauma, someone will be there to help them.
And I send a blessing to all the innocent shoppers and workers and first responders who survived the tragic incident at Greenwood Park Mall last Sunday. And a special blessing to the families who lost loved ones. Though the loss of lives was “only four,” to some, it was their world.
And may we be brave enough to set our biases aside and honestly engage with this issue before we get too desensitized to the loss of human life and give up hope. I will never give up hope.