I have just finished buying electronics at Best Buy at the Garden State Mall in
I have our three young children with me, ages 12, seven and
five. It is about 9:10 p.m.
My wife and 15-year-old daughter are in the
Since it closes at 9:30, I call Debbie and tell her I will
walk the kids into the mall’s main building and meet her.
Best Buy is
detached from the mall. We walk across the parking lot and into the entrance.
There is a carousel in front of us and I decide I should put the kids on it
until the mall closes.
Suddenly tens of people start running toward us
“There’s a shooter. Shooter. Run. Get
There is no need to think. I take the three kids by the hands and
make an immediate about face. We begin to run.
The kids are in utter
panic, absorbing what is happening.
They are not crying. Yet. We make it
to the parking lot and start running toward our car. I dial my wife whom I had
spoken to just five minutes earlier.
The call goes straight to voice
mail. I call my daughter.
Straight to voice mail. I am gripped by fear
and terror that I have rarely felt in my entire life. I call again, both
I am shaking. Why won’t they answer? I pray to my Creator and
beg Him for mercy.
“This is my wife. This is my child. Please protect
I put the kids in the car. I am outside on the phone. I call
again. Mercy of mercies, my wife answers. She is trembling as she
“There’s a shooter, Shmuley, right outside a store we’re
in. The salesperson saw him. He was carrying an AK-47, holding it in the
air. We heard about six shots. We’re terrified. Where are you? Get out.
Get out of the mall. Are the kids okay?”
I assure her that we’re safe, in the
parking lot. I push her to address where she is. Is she safe? She says, “We’re
hiding, locked in a stock room with about 10 other people. But the door is made
I tell her that whatever she does she must not come
Answer your phone. She explains that the reason the phones went to
voice mail was that they were both calling 911.
I tell her, “No matter
whom you’re speaking to, answer if I call.”
I get off the phone and call
911. I tell them there is a shooter in the Garden State Mall. I tell them there
is no police. They tell me to tell my wife to hide and not come out.
call the owners of the Westfield shopping malls, the Lowy family, whom I know
from my time as a rabbinical student in Sydney, Australia and with whom I have
stayed in touch.
Answering machine. I call a mutual friend in Los
He ultimately and miraculously gets the head of mall security on
the line. I tell him where my wife and daughter are hiding.
He assures me
someone will come to get them. He is comforting and assuring.
Cory Booker of New Jersey, my close friend whose swearing in my wife and I
attended just last Thursday in Washington, pops instantly into my mind. I text
him in capital letters: “CORY THERE IS A SHOOTER IN THE GARDEN STATE MALL!!” I
can swear I hear loud pops.
I get into the car. The children in the back
are crying. I am trying to assure them that their mother and sister are going to
be fine. God is going to protect them. I tell them we have to pray. We recite
Psalm 20 in Hebrew. We repeat it. I call my wife again. She is telling me she is
okay and that there is no sound of gunfire. They continue to hide in the store
A few moments later my wife calls me to tell me she is safely out.
SWAT members screamed to them to move out with their hands in the air. A
military scene was all around her as they made them run out of the building.
SWAT members, she says, fill the entire mall.
The gunman is still at
large and they are briskly moving people out, with bullet-proof shields
With heartfelt thanks, I begin reciting Psalm
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most
I also think to myself how incredible and brave the police
My wife and daughter are safe. It’s a miracle. Thank you, Oh Lord,
for your kindness to me and my family, I say to myself. I will try and be a
better person, a better servant of yours, Oh Lord. Thank you, Lord, for Your
protection and goodness.
An employee that was hiding with my wife and
daughter drive them to a nearby supermarket where we are reunited.
them safe fills me with gratitude and gladness. The smaller children are
thrilled to see their mother. Their tears end but, traumatized, they are not
As a boy of about nine I watched a police officer murdered right
in front of me in Miami Beach, Florida. It was April 1, April Fool’s Day, which
ever since has been a day of trauma for me. I even took my wife and children to
the spot where he died. I shall never forget the sound of the gunshot that
echoed so loudly that it nearly broke my eardrums.
And now again I am
traumatized by a shooting.
How many more will die before America finally
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