Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Walmart Shooting

I live less than half a mile from the Walmart in Lakewood, Washington where a security guard was executed yesterday as he walked out of the store carrying a bag with some money in it.  The shooters, the getaway driver, and the Walmart employee who was the girlfriend of one of the accomplices and apparently was feeding inside information to them have all been arrested and are behind bars.

Needless to say, this has shaken things up in the community a little.  I first became aware of it as I was trying to drive home about 20 minutes after the shooting when a fat topless man with a bad farmers tan was detouring traffic off my street.  "That's odd," I thought as I begrudgingly detoured.  When, a minute later, I realized that although I was about 2000 feet from home, it would probably be half an hour or more given the state of traffic, I decided to call the local police office (everyone should have their local police office number in their cell phone) and told them, "you probably know this already, given the 5 helicopters flying around overhead, but something is going on out here as traffic is at a near stand-still and some random guy without a shirt is directing traffic off of 75th street."  The lady's response: "oh, that is because there is a stalled vehicle over there... and also another incident."

Something wasn't adding up, and I've lived here long enough to know that there aren't usually several helicopters floating around overhead, so I called my wife and told her to close and lock the doors, because something strange was going on.  As I was about to turn back onto my street, two police motorcycles came roaring up with lights flashing and started directing traffic, and guess who's car was the second in line and would now be forced to make a big u turn and go around the back way to get home.  If you guessed Barack Obama, you have a very poor grasp of current events.  By the time I got back to where my house was, I decided that with two little girls at home and no idea why police were rerouting traffic and helicopters were making what looked like slow searching patterns overhead, that I should make sure I didn't need to go home and get my family and leave for a while.  I parked a little off the street and walked up to the corner where an officer was directing traffic.  After a few minutes he looked over and saw myself and another man standing there and asked what we wanted.  I said, "I just live right over there and I want to make sure that everything is safe with whatever is going on here."  His response: "Are you kidding?  There are more cops here than at a police convention.  This is the safest place around."

So I went home, told the neighbor who was cutting wood in her garage to close the door and lock the house and went in to try to find out what was going on.  As the story has been coming in, it seems like a carefully planned robbery involving an employee who had been timing the coming and going of the security guards, a getaway driver, and the two perpetrators who waited for the moment to kill the armored truck employee and run off with the money.  I had been in the store just a couple hours earlier and my wife later told me that she had been planning on sending me back on my way home to pick up some diapers.  My brother's mother in law was actually in the store at the time of the shooting, though she was in the back of the store and she said that she heard a loud sound and thought, "hmm, that sounds like a gunshot," but shook off such an absurd thought and went about her shopping.

It is a little scary to think just how close to home this occurred, but this could have happened anywhere, and so it doesn't make me feel any more unsafe.  In fact, I decided this morning that I would go shopping at Walmart today to show a little support; perhaps even to prove that a couple scumbags with a gun and no brains wouldn't change my life or make me cower in fear.  Whatever the reason, I expected to walk into a shell of a store with a few scared customers with bowed heads walking quietly through the aisles.

Instead, I found a busy and bustling store that was about as full as I had ever seen it, with people going about their normal lives.  It would be easy to assume that these are just heartless people who don't care that a life had been taken here just a day before, but I prefer to be the optimist and say that these were people of a like mind to me, who decided that the best way to heal the wounds is to get about business and show that we are not afraid.  By the end of the day a healthy memorial was already developing with flowers and cards and news crews standing around filming.

It was a little strange to walk through the entrance to the store and think, "here is where a man died," but for a reason I have a hard time expressing, I feel that one of the best ways I could honor a man who died faithfully fulfilling the duties of his employ, is to help that business and the flow of culture and community to not be shaken.

Less than 24 hours from now I'll be driving a moving truck out of here, but I'm sure that it will be quite some time beyond that before all of the psychological implications of an event like this are fully sorted out in my mind.  All I can say for those involved in this unconscionable crime is that I dearly hope that they never again get to enjoy the blessings of freedom and peace of mind that they so brazenly stole from a whole community for a few thousand dollars.

When I went to Walmart today, I saw good people trying to make sense of it all, but trying also to go about their lives and not have their freedom, their faith, their innocence stolen.  Seeing that, I think, helped calm the quiet fires in myself and restore some of that faith in the goodness of people that so few, with cold and thoughtless actions, would seek to take away from me.

And I hope that you will go out today and look around you and see the great people who are everywhere around, just doing their best to create a life of happiness and love.  Take it in, and hold it close to your heart, because some day, you may need to pull that thought out and embrace it to you as you try to make sense of the senseless.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of that poor young guard, who was just trying to do an honorable service as he made his way through helicopter school to become a pilot, and to all the armored truck guards who will now forever be glancing in the shadows around them wondering if perhaps they are next.


Prisca: said...

I can so tell you are an ED nurse--you go into action the minute you sense something is amiss! Always listen to you gut!!! Glad you guys are safe--what a crazy world we live in!

One Nurse said...

What a scary thing to happen so close to home and not know what was really going on. This is terrible! That poor security guy and his family and friends. Wow! I can't even imagine.

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