We hear about it on the news regularly: “Gunman Opens Fire on Campus.”
It’s always somewhere else. Not in my town; not near my home.
Today it happened. Again. In my town; too close to where I work.
Most of you know I work at the hospital, in a little office right inside the loading dock. Today started out like any other Monday, except that I skipped up the stairs with a 9×13″ pan of homemade lasagna. It was my contribution to the pot luck lunch/bridal shower being held for one of my Transport ladies. ❤
We were all in unusually good spirits for a Monday morning. Shortly before 8:20 or so there was an overhead page for our campus police chief to call the police extension. I heard it, but didn’t pay it a lot of attention. Nor did I pay any attention when the Chief came in and said something at the front desk; I was in our payroll software trying to log some PTO for the maintenance guys in their manager’s absence.
When my administrative assistant came in at 8:27 she said something major was going on at the college a block over. That’s when I heard my receptionist say something about a shooting. My head snapped up about that time and I said, “What?” She asked had I not heard Chief when he came in? Well, nooooo…my head was in the payroll game. Apparently all kinds of law enforcement were pouring into the college campus about that time, responding to the shooter. Initially, I thought that there must have been some kind of skirmish in the parking lot (much like I initially thought a small plane had gone off course or something when the first reports of a plane hitting the Trade Center on 9/11 came out). In both cases, was I ever wrong.
Initial reports were sketchy; one fatality and others injured. We did know that our emergency room was on lockdown. Then we heard that the shooter hadn’t been caught. My admin and I went to the cafeteria to grab breakfast and our groundskeeper told us to be careful, what with this guy on the loose and our proximity to the dock doors. Our office is the first one you get to a few feet from the doors; the wall of windows looking out onto the dock. I guess that’s when I clicked for me. There was a real threat in our backyard.
One of the police sergeants called and asked my admin to pull up the disaster recall list to put the off-duty officers on stand-by. When she realized she didn’t have a current copy of the list, I called the Lieutenant to see if he could email me one, and he told me he was at the edge of the wooded area between the hospital and the college making sure this guy didn’t get through. I told LT to be safe.
Shortly after that, my admin went to the police office to man the phones and that’s when we saw the sheriff’s helicopter circling low over the wooded area by The Pit where most of us park. Our facility went on lockdown. Our Courier called to tell me she was unable to gain access to many of the doctor’s offices in the immediate area, so I told her to skip them all and pick up at the neurosurgeon’s office and go from there, as I didn’t think it was a good idea for her to be hopping in and out of her van while in the search perimeter.
Those of us in the office stayed glued to the local news websites, and my admin called in with a suspect description, which I relayed to my staff and the people milling around on the dock. She also told me that there were going to be two maintenance guys at each of the dock doors looking out, you know…just in case.
My cell phone was buzzing with messages from my friends out of the area asking if I was anywhere near the college. Apparently, this made Fox News and CNN early on.
The rumors were flying. One news outlet stated there was a hostage situation. Another stated that there was one subject under control. Neither of these reports were true.
By late morning there was a person of interest, who later became a suspect wanted on an open murder charge.
When it was all over, our lockdown was lifted, press conferences had been held, a suspect named, and one fatality was confirmed and his identity released. This was not a random shooting, from what we are hearing. The suspect is still at large at the time of this post.
This was the most on-edge I have ever been at work, and the second most surreal day I’ve experienced in the almost fourteen years I’ve worked there.
A little over ten hours after it all started I am sitting on my back deck (what’s left of it) with an adult beverage next to me, glad to be home. The recurring thought that I have is that this poor guy showed up to work, wasn’t even there a half an hour and his life is over. Just like that.
My thoughts also go out to all the first responders, especially the policemen and women who were on the scene, facing a dangerous unknown.
When I got home, I hugged my husband a little tighter. The older I get, the more it hits home that we aren’t guaranteed another tomorrow.
Until next time…