Phạm Đức Huy

Near death experience

I recount the experience and how it made me feel.

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Posted on December 27, 2018

For a moment today, I thought I was going to die
7PM. Walden Galleria Mall, Buffalo, New York.
The stores were still crowded, as people tried to enjoy the last of the holidays. I was walking with a friend, about to leave the place.
Suddenly, we heard loud foot steps.
One shopper sprung out of no where and ran towards the other end of the hall. In no time, a stream of human beings followed. All sort of people: young guy with red sneakers, fat middle aged woman one hand on her forehead. Small children fled in random directions. From the crowd, sparsely came these words: "I heard gun shots."
Someone screamed.
From the beginning to this point, I was frozen in one spot, thought everything was a prank of some sort. This looked like a Korean TV show, where people play cat and mouse in shopping malls with their K-pop idols. I looked for a cue, for someone to laugh it off, for some celebs to pop out and call it a day. It never happened.
The first store next to me quickly rolled down their protective metal door. The other stores followed suit.
This became too real for me. "Mass shooter", I thought to myself, "I may die".
And as if we came to the same conclusion at the same time, my friend gave me an odd look, and we started running.
I ran and I ran, with instinct, as people went amok in too many directions. An image of a misfiring bullet somehow landed on my back kept replaying in my head. 'I have to get out. I have to get out. This is the moment.'
We outran old people. Only lagged behind some young folks. Shoppers and mall employees blended altogether in one chaotic flood of indistinguishable colors. In our every step, stores besides us one by one closed their metal doors in a collective lock down. Some shoppers got to stay inside with store owners, hiding behind cabinets or fitting rooms. For the ones outside, the only way is OUT.
I never felt this alive. Every inch of my body was vibrating, pushing me forward. My brain went strangely blank. Some where at the back of my head, an image of my family was waiting, encouraging. Finally, we reached an exit.
A swarm of police cars. Sirens echoed in the dark and cold parking lot. I saw officers talking, writing on their notepad. We talked to some people outside to recount events.
We saw frightened teenagers waiting for their Uber at the end of the road. We saw a couple hugging for what seemed like infinite. We saw families embracing one another intimately, in any corners, empty spaces, parking lot. They seemed not to care where they stood, as long as they were with their loved ones.
My friend made a final remark: "Haven't seen Buffalo this warm for a while"
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Written by Human, Not by AI
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