Karla News

My Experience with the Shootings at the Westroads Mall in Omaha

Omaha, Omaha Nebraska, Sioux City

At 2:28pm today my cell phone rang.

“We’re OK,” I hear my boyfriend say on the other end, “I just wanted to let you know before you see it all over the news.”

Little did I know that a gunman had opened fire in the VonMaur department store at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, this afternoon, Wednesday, December 5.

My boyfriend had traveled to Omaha on business today. As he left for work this morning, I never thought that he could be involved in a mass shooting like the one that happened at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska. After all, we live in the Midwest, a place of naive security where nothing will ever happen. Until today.

During our phone call he reassured me that he, a co-worker and his sister, a resident of Omaha, were fine. They had met up for lunch at an Applebee’s Restaurant near the Westroads Mall when they stumbled upon the flurry of police and ambulances. The restaurant TVs were all broadcasting local news reports from the Westroads Mall.

After our call I began to think about how things like this just don’t happen here in the Midwest. On the anniversaries of 9-11, I can remember hearing many people reassure each other that we’re lucky to live in the Midwest since nothing like that will ever happen here. The same sentiments can be heard after the news broadcasts horrific accounts of school shootings. I think back to my high school and how we left the classroom doors open for fresh air. I just can’t imagine spending a day in “lock down” mode out of fear.

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A few hours after the conversation with my boyfriend, I was updating a co-worker about the most recent information being broadcast on the evening news. At that time, nine shoppers had died in the shooting, and the gunman had reportedly turned the gun on himself. Ten people were dead.

During the conversation with my co-worker, I told her of my impending relocation to Omaha, a mere hour and a half drive south of my current home in Sioux City, Iowa. I must have been talking loudly, as a man in military fatigues with the 185th Refueling Wing, located in Sioux City, quickly joined in the conversation.

He reminded me that if you live your life scared of these possible events, you’ll never live your life at all. Then he said, ” I am ready to go at anytime.” The confidence of his military training was shining through.

At 6:02pm I received a text message that reads “heading home.” I never thought I’d be so happy to read those two words after learning about the tragedy from a cell phone call near the mall and watching the details of the shooting in Omaha unravel on the evening news.

Tomorrow I find out if my relocation to Omaha will materialize. Am I scared to possibly move to Omaha? No, but the shootings at the Westroads Mall in Omaha have made me realize that tragedy really can strike anywhere, even in the Midwest.