Friday, June 7, 2013

The Rampage in Santa Monica

I was at the PLUSH baby show, checking out these beautiful new strollers from Spain. I'm interviewing the honorable and distinguished owners of the company, Jane'.  My phone starts going crazy. My DD is messaging me, telling me there has been a shooting in our neighborhood in Santa Monica. Her school let out early today, since it's the end of the year. So she and her friends went to the Promenade. When they heard about the shooting,  they ran to our house as fast as they could. But where is her brother? He should be home from school by now; he rode his bike there this morning. She says all the schools are on lockdown. I call his school; no answer. I call SP 2.0.'s pre-school; no answer.

 The Jane' guys shake their heads. "This doesn't happen in Spain", they said. I inexplicably feel ashamed. Now the minutes are ticking by, and still no word about Michael. The American Jane' guy, Chris, whips out his IPad. And pulls up the horror story. 7 people dead? 5 people dead? The guy had been randomly shooting people in cars and on the street? 

I'm trying to focus, but I lose my purse. Did I leave it in the Bugaboo booth? No, Orbit? An announcement comes over the PA that a purse has been turned in. The owner must describe it. I go there and say "It's a small leather pouch, clearly handmade in Ireland, with a Celtic infinity design". They hand it over.

Now the phone rings again. "Hello, this is the school psychologist". And then "wa wa wa". Her words sounded as if they were under water. Remember the old Peanuts cartoons when the parents and teachers talked, it was "wa wa wa." I couldn't understand a word she was saying. My face flushed red. "Is my son alright!" I yelled. Because really, when your son is missing and the school psychologist calls, the first words out of her mouth needs to be that your child is OK.

He had been at an end of the school year picnic at the park. Then they heard gunshots and screams. I think that years from now, when they look back, they will realize that it was at that moment, any semblance of the innocence of  their childhood was shattered. But today, they all just huddled together. President Obama was close by, so initially they thought someone was trying to shoot him. Military crafts were dispatched, and the kids watched them shoot across the sky. They couldn't move, they couldn't play, they couldn't run around, they couldn't eat their picnic lunch. Then a school bus came and ferried them over to a school on the other side of town. 

The valet seemed to take forever. When I finally saw my car, I ran towards it, dropping my tote bag in the process. This was the big one, with the ID and credit cards and cameras and make up and shoes. I jumped in, and sped off. My bag stayed behind. I had my phone in my hand, and it kept ringing and ringing. My hand was shaking, and so I dropped it between the two front seats. Where it wedged tightly into the crevice. Now I'm driving with one hand and trying to pull it out with the other.
I couldn't get the phone to find out where he was in the school,  which is pretty big. I just picked a random parking lot, left my car in the middle, and ran into the first room I saw. It was surreal. All these ladies were in there smiling and chatting and decorating for a school dance. Hanging flowers and little twinkly lights and curtains, and laying out different cookies and cakes with little signs on them. I stood there and looked at the signs, wondering why you have to make little signs for cookies at a school dance.

 Then I race through there, pushing all these layers of curtains aside. I ran out the door to the other side. It was all deserted. I saw some stairs, so I ran up them. Then I stood at the top of the stairs and just started yelling "MICHAEL"! at the top of my voice, which can be um, LOUD. It worked. He was down at the end of the hallway, and came out when he heard me. I ran to him, threw my arms around him and tried to hug him. And you know that little bugger pulled away. "Let your mom hug you" says the Vice Principal sternly. Then he looks at me and shakes his head. "In all of the years I've worked here, this is a first." Michael says he will remember this day for the rest of his life, and will never go on and end of the year school picnic again.

Now I've got him, and we scramble in the car to round up the other kids. But, Michael wants to get his bike, which is chained to a pole outside of school, across the street from the college where the shootings took place. So I have to maneuver around all those Police and Fire and Swat and FBI and ambulances. There were NINE different crime scenes, all taped off. We see a large group of students sitting on the ground looking dazed, with red cross blankets wrapped around them. Some are just wandering around aimlessly, in circles. News vans are everywhere, with reporters doing live stand-ups.

We see the bike.Michael goes over to it, unlocks it, nonchalantly puts his helmet on, and pedals off. No one, not the FBI, or Swat, or Police, pays him a glance.

We get home, and my DD and her friends are looking at pics of the dead guy on Instagram. What an era. The Police got in a  gun battle with him in the library, the library! Which was full of students studying for finals. The very one we are at all the time.  They dragged him out, and he died on the sidewalk. And people took pictures of him lying there dead. On the radio, they are saying he was a "fat white guy dressed all in black."

SP 2.0's school sheltered them by preparing for tomorrow's school carnival. Nevertheless, he is excitedly asking me "Mommy, did you see the Police? Did you see the killer? Can I have a cupcake?" I had baked them last night for the carnival. Such a normal act, on a day that turned out to be anything but normal.
 I should go back to the hotel and get my bag, but I am drained...

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