I was at first a little unsure whether or not I wanted to go to the “re-opening” of our Mall at 1:00 PM today after the tragic shootings that took place on Saturday. I decided to head off to swim practice and see how I felt afterwards. I also wanted to see if anyone else was planning to attend. In the end, several of us went to lunch, but no one was able to head over to the Mall with me. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. I had no reason not to go and one very good reason to go. I am a part of this community. I spent nearly all of my youth growing up in Columbia and all my years since college living in Columbia or Howard County. We arrived in 1972. My parents still live in the same house. Columbia is in every fiber of my being. I'm not sure people new to the area understand the level of love and pride some of us long-timers have for this place. I'm not sure I even get it. But, I do love it here in Howard County, and I do feel strongly about what happens here. So, I went to the Mall a little before 1:00 and waited for the doors to open. I wanted to be a supportive presence. When the group that had gathered at the doors to the food court (not where the press and county leaders were) and I entered, it was very strange. Not all of the stores and restaurants were open yet, and some were still dark and unoccupied. Everything looked spotlessly clean and empty of people. There were a lot of “greeters,” if you will, welcoming us back to the Mall. And, of course there were a lot of security guards and policemen/women. It was very weird. I made it around to a couple of stores, although I really didn't need anything. I did talk to the employees at every store I went in, which was my attempt to bring “normal” to the day. But, it was not normal. I noticed that there were other folks just being there, as well.
The memorial tributes were lovely and respectful. There was a long line forming to sign the memory/memorial books and to drop a flower into the fountain. And I could tell that since I did not end up seeing anyone that I knew well enough to sit and chat for a bit, and I did not have anything I needed to buy, I needed to leave. I am looking forward to going back to the Mall in the days and weeks to come, as it returns to its normal levels of business and activity. As for today, I'm glad I could go and just be, standing united with my community.
Memorial tributes – flowers in the fountain