Gunshots at Yorkdale Mall: The second scariest day of my life

Wednesday, September 05, 2018



(What you are about to read will come across as scenes from an action movie, or a Robert Patterson novel. It is a 100% true-life account of events that happened)

If someone had told me last Thursday morning, that before the end of the day I would see my life flash past in my head, I would have simply called them a prophet of doom, and laughed it away.

But I did see my life flash past me last Thursday; it was the second scariest day of my life.

The scariest day till date remains some day in late 2013, when I had just returned to my birth-country from post-graduate studies in Nova Scotia. Two weeks into my new apartment, I was robbed by three armed men, at gun point.

That was my welcome-home party.

(No, I was not harmed. Thank you for wondering)

It was not the robbery that got to me on its own. It was when I went to report to the police, and after stating that they could quite easily nab the hoodlums who robbed me, proceeded to request for a N50,000 “mobilisation fee”.

(El Oh El. The irony of my poor situation)

But that is story for another day… and I digress.

Last Thursday started out like any other day. I was travelling out of the city, and was supposed to hitch a shared ride. The pick-up point was at Yorkdale Mall.

I got there pretty early. Rather than hang around in the parking lot, I thought to go into the mall, to the second floor food court, so as to get some Chinese food to eat, and some small-chops for the journey.

As I climbed the escalator, I whined to B over the phone (via my head-piece), on the crazy cost of big-city living, and how I craved a time-machine to go back to when I was a kid, with my greatest financial burdens at the time being N5 groundnuts. Adulting is hard business, I whined. It was either the machine, or me breaking down in tears, I threatened.

B: “So now that you can’t go back to being a child, will you start crying right in the middle of the mall?”
Me: “Honestly, I will. My only concern is what answer to give, when people begin wondering and asking me, why a 6-foot tall grown woman is crying, in the middle of the food court”.
B: “That’s not a problem. Simply tell them that you remembered how Jesus was crucified, and the pain just hit you all over again. That is why you are crying”

This cracked me up so much, that I sat on the chair closest to me, just before food vendors, to have a very good laugh. I had not laughed like this in a while, and while we both continued laughing, for some reason I glanced at my clock. It was 2.49 pm.

“B, I have to go get food and eat bef-”

I was cut mid-sentence by large screams from my right hand side, and the sound of like a million people rushing towards me, while flinging tables and chairs from the way.

I looked up for a second, and that second told me many many things, and everything I needed to know.

It told me, from the look on the faces of the crowd rushing my way, that people were not just being dramatic, but were running fast in actual fear of palpable mortal danger.

It told me that people were not running from a fire. They were not looking for just any exits to escape oncoming fire. They were running, and dodging, and hiding, and stampeding other frozen people, in a bid to escape from something behind them that could obviously outrun everyone, and move with the speed of light.

They were running from a bullet.

What followed in the next couple of minutes was a combination of crazy adrenaline, years of military training in secondary school and diving under gutters while hiding from soldiers, a lifetime of jumping from moving vehicles and running into the bush on shouts of “Armed Robbers ahead!!”, tons of Tom Cruise and Jack Bauer styled movies, and raw fear.

Before the whole crowd could get to me, I grabbed my 20-pound trolley box in one hand, with my handbag in the other, and started crouch-running zig-zaggedly into a space ahead.

“Hello??? What’s going on??” B asked. I forgot I was still on the phone, and could not be bothered to unplug my ear-piece.

“B, I think there’s a shooter! I’m just running”. The alarms went off, loudly blaring. It was official that something crazy was happening.

“Stay low while running. Find somewhere safe. Lie down, and cover your head with your hands”. Poor B, vicariously experiencing the madness and fear from a million miles away.

“I’ve found somewhere”.
“Are you alone?”
“No. There are a lot of us here”.
“Good. Stay where there are lots of people. Where are you guys hiding?”

When I was running, I had run toward the sunlight, to somewhere that looked like “outside”. I quickly glanced around me, and saw thirty to forty other people there, including babies, all crying, and hiding, and lying down.

I looked at our surroundings, and realised it was a balcony. It was too far up to jump from, if the shooter came through the hallway at us.

“B, it’s a balcony! And it’s too high up. I’m scared”. To think that only yesterday, we had discussed 9/11, and the people who had jumped … from the fire, to their deaths.

“Just stay low, and hide”.

There was insufficient space to lie down, so I crouched under a table on my knees, using my box as a shield between me and the glass, (which was the only thing separating us from the hallway and this evil person), while covering my head with my interlocked hands.

That was the moment my life flashed right before me.

My only consolation if any, was that in that moment, I was not alone. B was there with me… sort of.

I made my peace with Christ, and just crouched low. A girl was wounded while running, and what looked to me like her mum was hugging her, and asking her to be calm.

We all tried to be as quiet as possible as we waited, but the truth is we were very easy targets for any shooter coming down the hallway.

“B, this place is not safe at all. I want to leave”
“But you don’t know the direction the shooter is coming from exactly. You might just run into them. Just hold on.”

(I am tired of typing… let me rest. Phew!)


After what seemed like an eternity of hiding and crouching (but was in reality a couple of minutes), one elderly man suddenly stood up from among us, and sauntered into the hallway.

He had that air of “I am near death already, kuku kill me now”, and was even sipping a bottle of something as he walked in.

By the time he had walked right to the centre of the hallway without being gunned down, other people began to get up.

“B, some people are standing up. I see an exit near me, just inside the hallway. Let me see if I can find some stairs and run out from the building”.

“Ok. Just be careful”

So I ran into the hallway, dashed into the exit and saw a couple of other scared people along the back of the exits. But there were no stairs in sight. There was a maze of doors, and maaaahhhn… that was when I started crying too.

What if the shooter was behind one of those doors?

“B, I’m not sure where to go”
“Are there other people? Where are they going to??”

So I moved towards the other people, and we were all moving past an exit. Suddenly, that exit burst open, and people came running in, that the shooters (plural!) were coming towards us.

There was more than one shooter? Lord!

I just ran back, and pulled one of the doors open. I saw a stairwell, and started running down, with my box, and bag at all.

Honestly, I do not know why and was not even consciously aware that I was carrying all that stuff; there was too much adrenaline, and I had turned into Wonder/Super/Cat Woman all at once.

“Where are you?”
“I’m running down a stairwell. But I’m alone
“Why are you alone? Use a stairwell that has other people”
“This was the only one I saw. And people.. I think people are afraid”

I kept running down, and noticed legs some flights below. I peeped, and saw two men standing and talking casually. What if these were the shooters??

(I should have listened to B)

I remembered those horror movies where the black person is always the first to die, and said to myself: “Not today Satan. This Nigerian-Canadian lawyer-slash-blogger-slash-slayqueen is not dying today”.

I quickly lugged all my stuff and raaaaaaaaan right back up the stairs, away from the two men. I ran into the cluster of people, who had begun coming down gently behind me, and muttered something incoherently to them.

As we were all there frozen and confused, one of the staff-workers of one of the food vendors appeared among us, and signaled us to the right. He opened a door, used his identification card, and opened another door which led to a stairwell.

He led us through that stairwell, till we got to the ground floor. I kept running, until we saw the security, who directed us safely out of the building, and I sat on the floor in the open parking lot.

“Where are you now?”
“I’m outside in the parking lot. I’m out of the mall”
“Thank God!! Okay, move away from where there are a lot of people. You remember how Boko-Haram operates at home? Causing confusion so people will gather in a place, then they strike”.

So I moved away from the crowd, and that was when I began to notice that my arms and knees were hurting from all the running, and jumping stairs, and crouching.

I was shaken to my core. I wanted to just get away from that whole place, which explains why when the news stations called me for interviews almost immediately, I explained that I was already out of the place.

I wanted to get as far away as possible from the horror. I just wanted to just get home.

I know I always have lessons at the end of every post. I do not have for this one.

I am just grateful to God for life. And B.

Paz,

Meg.




P.s: I checked the time-stamp on the pictures I took when I got out of the mall. This whole ordeal for me lasted sixteen minutes.

And the humour? That’s my coping mechanism.

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10 comments

  1. Hmmm...I'm short of words. It felt like I was watching a horror movie. I'm glad that you were safe.

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  2. Wow! This is some scary shit. I'm just glad you are fine. Untimely demise will never be our portion.

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  3. Wow! This is some scary shit. I'm just glad you are fine. Untimely demise will never be our portion.

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  4. Thanks be to God. Just know this that you will die old, with your kids surrounding you on a bed and u will die smiling knowing that you have conquered and achieved your mission. Always have this in your mind. Anyother thing is an adventure...

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    Replies
    1. Amen!! Thank you Big brov! You're the absolute bestest!! 😘😘

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  5. Oh my God,i am just reading this... I thank God for ur life. He truly answers when we call and such evil will never see you again, Amen

    ReplyDelete