For gentle readers who missed the news: Last night shortly after 9:00 p.m. there were reports of shots fired at the Garden State Plaza, the largest enclosed shopping mall in New Jersey. In terms of public safety that translates to over 300 shops and kiosks, food court and restaurants, amusements like a carousel, movie theaters, mass transit facilities, parking fields and structures, and truck concourses – an accessible place that appeals to almost everyone of all ages. A shooting there is a suburban nightmare.
I first learned about the unfolding emergency on social media – it's amazing how many of my friends were out shopping at that mall on a Monday night. As the news reports rolled in, it was notable there was coverage of the massive police response and the chaotic lockdown and evacuation of the mall; nothing on shooting victims because, thankfully, there weren't any. It would seem there was one gunman, who fired shots at no one and nothing in particular and who died of a single self-inflicted gunshot. His friends say he was a nice guy; his family guessed it was him, and provided information to the police.
Today the mall is closed and there is ample time to reflect on the horror of a personal tragedy writ large in a public gathering place, and to tally the costs. Not least among them, bricks-and-mortar retailers were already concerned about projections of weak holiday sales because of the government shutdown – they'll be in even worse trouble if shoppers stay away because of fears of violence. And because it's General Election Day in New Jersey, there's also an opportunity to select candidates who support sensible gun control and mental health initiatives.
This photo of my polling place is from November 2006, but I'm using it anyway because it looks pretty much the same now, with the exception the PTA isn't allowed to do a bake sale anymore.
Fellow New Jerseyans, be sure to exercise your right to vote. There's a full slate of state offices, including for governor, and two public questions. Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find voter information here.