I was at local business centre this afternoon and on my way out I passed by a kind of common area with a fountain, escalator, and a bunch of benches. It wasn’t that busy, but there were a bunch of kids and families milling around, mostly by the fountain. When I got about 15 or so metres passed them, all of a sudden a few people started shouting, and I froze. Within 10 seconds, the shouting turned to mass screaming, including the most God-awful wailing I’ve ever heard. At that point, I just ran. I couldn’t even turn around to see what had happened. I heard the sound of people in trouble, and I ran.

I passed by one of the shopkeepers who was just coming around her counter, and asked her to call 911 (my phone was buried in my backpack, because I couldn’t even be prepared for something that basic), that someone had gotten hurt, but that I didn’t know exactly what it was. By the time I got to the street, three police cars and an ambulance were screaming up, and everyone in them was rushing out into the mall. Another woman had come out right behind me, and we just stared at each other. She asked “Did you see?” I shook my head, and she said that she couldn’t stand to look either, and had fled past the crowd as soon as the screaming started too. We both felt so guilty, but helpless. Two more women came out, sobbing, and I just got on my bike and left. I couldn’t stand to see who was going to be coming out on that stretcher.

So yeah. I feel like I just failed at humanity. I don’t have first aid or any sort of skills that would be helpful in an emergency, but for all I knew someone had started stabbing people, and I could have tried to stop them or get the kids out. Instead, I ran. It turns out there was literally nothing I could have done, but I still feel horrible. The sound of one person screaming (among all the rest) is going to haunt me.

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ETA- I also hate how apparently I’m the sort of person who makes tragedies all about them. That’s not what I want to do here. I just don’t really know how to process.

Update: The incident (for anyone who didn’t click on the link) was that a 4 year old girl fell off the top of an escalator and down a shaft four floors to the bottom of the parking garage. It’s reported now that she is in stable condition in the hospital, thank God.

Thanks everyone for your calming, rational, and kind words. I no longer feel like throwing up when I think of what happened (knowing the girl is alive certainly helps), and am so glad I was able to talk to such amazing people about it right afterwards.