Oh my God, I am so upset by the news that came out of Palm Desert on Friday that I still can't talk about it in a reasonable tone of voice.
My old newspaper, The Desert Sun reported on Friday that two men shot and killed each other inside the Toys R Us in Palm Desert on Friday morning. That's right: two men took loaded guns inside a toy store on the busiest shopping day of the year and, when an altercation arose, shot at each other, fatally wounding each other. You can read the paper's report from my former colleagues here, at least for a few days. That's the Toys R Us that I used to regularly visit back when we still lived in Twentynine Palms, an hour's drive away. I used to take William to that very store on Highway 111 when he was a baby to buy sippy cups and bibs and Fisher Price toys. It was a regular on my roster of stores to visit when I made my weekly drives down into the valley. Right across the street from Target and right around the corner from Trader Joe's.
The online report that I read yesterday morning quoted a mother whose four-year-old son was clinging desperately to her leg and saying fearfully, "Mommy, I don't want to die" after the first shots rang out. And the very idea that not only was a four-year-old child afraid of being shot to death in a toy store but that it was a very real fear just about chilled the blood pumping through my body. As a parent, I was absolutely infuriated by this whole tragedy. Sure there are places we can't reasonably expect our children to be safe, but we don't--or shouldn't--take our children there. And a toy store is not one of those places. We all know that having children means that, one day, we will have to turn our children loose, hope that we did a good job raising them, and let them live their own lives. We all know that we can only be responsible for their welfare for so many years. But who ever thinks they'd have to worry about their child's life inside a toy store? And to paraphrase a city councilman quoted in the story (one I used to interview, I might add), who takes a loaded gun into a toy store and why? It would never have occurred to be worried about trigger-happy gun-toters inside a toy store. And for some people, now they always will be, on some level.
Luckily, no innocent people were harmed in this incident. At least not physically. But I'd be willing to bet that some of those parents, once they finish thanking God for still being alive, are never really going to get over it. I don't think I would.