I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.
What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life. I was on a mission to eat sushi that day, and when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me. When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant. Instead of walking in, sitting down and enjoying sushi, I changed my mind, which is very unlike me, and decided that a greasy burger and poutine would do the trick. I rushed through my dinner. I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.
My receipt shows my purchase was made at 6:20 pm. After that purchase I said I felt funny. It wasn’t the kind of funny you feel after spending money you know you shouldn’t have spent. It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing. A feeling that was overwhelming enough to lead me to head outside in the rain to get fresh air instead of continuing back into the food court to go shopping at SportChek. The gunshots rung out at 6:23. Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.
I walked around the outside of the mall. People started funneling out of every exit. When I got back to the front, I saw a police car, an ambulance, and a fire truck. I initially thought that maybe the street performer that was drumming there earlier had a heart attack or something. But more and more police officers, ambulances, and fire trucks started showing up. Something terrible has happened. I overheard a panicked guy say, “There was a shooting in the food court.” I thought that there was no way, I was just down there. I asked him what happened. He said “Some guy just opened fire. Shot about 8 shots. It sounded like balloons popping. The guy is still on the loose.” I’m not sure what made me stick around at this point instead of running as far away from the mall as possible. Shock? Curiosity? Human nature? Who knows.
Standing there in the midst of the chaos all around us, police started yelling to get back and make room. I saw a young shirtless boy, writhing on a stretcher, with his face and head covered by the EMS as they rushed him by us to get him into an ambulance. The moment was surprisingly calm. The EMTs helping the boy weren’t yelling orders and no one was screaming like a night time medical drama. It was as if it was one swift movement to get the boy out of the mall and into the ambulance. That’s when it really hit me. I felt nauseas. Who would go into a mall full of thousands of innocent people and open fire? Is this really the world we live in?
Police start yelling again “GET BACK NOW!” Another stretcher came rushing out of the mall. I saw a man on a stretcher, the blanket underneath him spotted with blood. Multiple gunshot holes in his chest, side, and neck were visible. It’s not like in the movies when you see someone shot and they’re bleeding continuously from the wound. There was no blood flowing from the wounds, I could only see the holes. Numerous gaping holes, as if his skin was putty and someone stuck their finger in it. Except these wounds were caused by bullets. Bullets shot out of hatred. His dark skin on his torso was tinted red with what I assume was his own blood. He was rushed into the ambulance and taken away.
More people joined the crowd at the scene and asked what happened. “There was a shooting in the food court,” kept being whispered through the crowd like a game of telephone. I was standing near a security guard when I heard him say over his walkie talkie, “One fatality.” At this point I was convinced I was going to throw up. I’m not an EMT or a police officer. I’m not trained to handle crime and murder. Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I’d experience a violent crime first hand. I’m on vacation and wanted to eat and go shopping. Everyone else at the mall probably wanted the same thing. I doubt anyone left for the mall imagined they witness a shooting.
I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.
I feel like I am overreacting about what I experienced. But I can’t help but be thankful for whatever caused me to make the choices that I made that day. My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest. The feeling that’s reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.
I’m fairly new to this kind of dating. I’ve quickly realized there are so many men out there for me to choose from: The Bad Boys, The Party Guys, The Class Clowns, and even The Hot Guy with No Brains, to name a few. I’m having the time of my life going out there and getting to know all these different types of men. I’m starting to figure out what I like and what I don’t like. I have found myself incredibly attracted to some and completely turned off by others. Some that have future potential, and some that just make good friends. Men are like the game of hockey to me, and NHL teams are easily compared to a collection of male archetypes that everyone can relate to.
The Unicorn: The Unicorn is the mythical embodiment of perfection. He’s the God that walks amongst mere mortals. He has it all. He is perfect in every way and right now he even has the girlfriend that everyone wishes they had their hands on. The Unicorn is always the Stanley Cup winner, even if the winner is not the team you normally support. So Boston Bruins, or shall I say the Boston Unicorns, that honor belongs to you. They had one heck of a ride to the Stanley Cup.
The Bad Boy: Detroit Red Wings. I love to hate him. One of the reasons why I hate him is because, well, he keeps beating the teams I like. He picks on all the little guys and he’s trouble, nothing except trouble. But, damn does he look good. I’m going to hide the little part of me that gets giddy when I watch him play behind a wall of hatred, because Mama always told me to watch out for the bad boys.
The Boy Next Door: Plain and simple, that is your next door neighbor. Whether you love them or hate them, you live next to them and they’re always around. That is your home team, the one that’s closest to you. That is now the Colorado Avalanche for me since I just moved to Denver and he’s my new neighbor. I haven’t quite decided what to think about him yet. He seems harmless in a cute and endearing way. I definitely see a friendship sparking between us. It may even turn into a full-blown love affair. We’ll see, I’m definitely keeping my eye on him though.
The Guy You Lost Your Virginity To: He’s a good guy. He’s sweet and cute in the endearing way. He’s the underdog. Most girls wouldn’t even give him the time of day. He got bullied and threatened a lot last year, but he kept fighting back. You will always pull for him and wish him the best because he is a special guy. You do care about him, mainly because you lost your virginity to him and you two share a special bond. That is the Phoenix Coyotes for me. They were my first real introduction to the NHL. I love them, I truly do. Is there a part of me that wishes that maybe I would have given it up to someone a little more special? Yes, a little. I feel terrible for saying that because he was so good to me and he was the perfect guy to give me the experience I needed. But all good things come to an end and it’s time for me to move on to bigger, better things. Watch, he’s going to grow up to become that super famous and hot actor, or win the Stanley Cup four years in a row.
The Party Guys: Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks. These guys are the fraternities on campus. They throw a good party and they know how to have a good time. I’m usually pretty entertained by them. I don’t have any real interest in them. I just use them for the cheap thrill of a good party. I know we have to keep the Capitals and the Penguins away from each other. Throw two studs in the same room together and you might end up with a huge fight for dominance. Oh, just kidding, we are talking about Ovechkin and Crosby. We can only watch closely and hope for a fight between them. No fights actually allowed.
The Class Clown: Hello New York Islanders! They used to be the pretty awesome, then they had that awkward period that made them fall from grace. There’s something about that team that cracks me up though. Maybe it’s the way that Rick DiPietro takes a punch. Maybe it’s the all out brawl that happened with the Penguins. The Class Clown should never pick a fight with a flashy Party Boy. It could be also be the lackluster seasons they keep having. I don’t know exactly what it is it, but it’s hard for me to take them seriously. They’re just around for a few laughs.
The Nice Guy: He’s a good guy. He works hard, has a nice personality, and isn’t bad looking either. He’s an all around likable dude with fantastic hair. The Chicago Blackhawks and their goal song get me every time.
The Friend with Benefits: I see you over there Vancouver Canucks. Yeah, you look good. You’re not looking for a commitment? Neither am I. Oh? You want to show me a good time? Well, I’m not that type of girl. You are hot though and you do have a great body. Oh, you’re funny, smart, and sexy too? You’d like to take me to out? Well, I guess we can go out once and see what happens. We had a blast and now I’m hooked. Since we have no real attachment other than a good time, I’ll enjoy the fun until I find something better.
The ‘Oh My Gosh He Got So Hot Over the Summer’ Guy: Is that really the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers? Whoa, there is no way that is the same guy. Sabres parents got divorced and his mom married some rich man over the summer. He showed up to driving a brand new BMW and he had to have gotten a personal trainer because, goodness, did he buff up. It looks like new Step-dad is treating his stepson well. Panther went to fat camp, buffed up, got a flashy new wardrobe, and has a new group of cool friends that came out of nowhere. But is it all smoke and mirrors? Are they going to be the new “It Boys” or are they still the same loser hiding behind all the flashiness?
The Fresh Meat: He just moved to town and you can’t decide if you love him or hate him. Since he’s new he tried out for the team and made it. Some people are excited about the fresh talent and others are super pissed because him making the team means someone that you like is no longer on the team. I present to you the Winnipeg Jets.
The Disappointment: He flirts with you for months and you’re incredibly into him. He’s charming and flashy for a while and when Spring Formal comes around, he asks you to go with him. Because you are so excited about it you decide to buy a new dress just for the occasion, even though you already have a dress you can wear. The night of Spring Formal comes around and homeboy shows up to get you reeking of cheap whiskey. He comes inside to use your bathroom, starts throwing up, and passes out. Night over before it even got started. He wasn’t all that he was cracked up to be. Unfortunately the dress is non-refundable and now you’re stuck with the painful memory of what could have been hanging in your closet. That would be the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Hot Guy with No Brains: In high school he skated by. He’s hot, but he is dumber than a stack of bricks. The only reason he got into college was because his Daddy paid the school a lot of money for him to get accepted. He’s fun to party with and he shows you a good time. How far will that go? Without a brain you’ll never go anywhere. Over the summer he realized he needed to smarten up, so he got a tutor. While he was being tutored he gained a bunch of weight and lost a lot of his appeal. Now we have to wait and see if the tutor will actually pay off and if it’s worth losing his appeal. Brain equals goalie. Appeal equals their two best forwards. Hot Guy with No Brains is the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Quiet Guy: That is the guy who shows up to some of the parties but never really says anything to anyone. You often forget he’s even there. He stays out of the way and waits for his moment to shine. I’m talking about the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Former Stud Turned Dud: In high school he was everything. The guys wanted to be him, the girls wanted to be with him. He was athletic, smart, and a total hot shot. Maybe it was that bad break up he never quite got over, but he’s just not as good as he once was. He’s a sad shell of his former self, wearing his varsity jacket everywhere he goes. That being the case, he is definitely going to make a comeback or he’s going to die trying. Considering a lot of people don’t have much hope for the Edmonton Oilers, it could be long road ahead of them.
Your Friend’s Boyfriend: He’s always around and he’s not a bad guy. Sometimes he makes mistakes and disappoints her, but all in all, he makes her happy and that’s all that matters. When I lived in Texas, there were a lot of people that were Dallas Stars fans. Over time, you learned to deal with them because they weren’t exactly going anywhere.
The One That Transferred: He was around for a while, but never quite got the hang of things. He struggled during his time there and eventually Mom and Pops decided that there was a better place for him to go. So they yanked him right out of there with very little warning. The ones he was close to will miss him dearly and the ones that never got the chance to get to know him will hardly notice his absence. Sure, next year his name will come up, but after time he will be nothing but a distant memory. Atlanta Thrashers, it was fun while it lasted.
The Snob: He’s a little bit abrasive and he thinks he’s God’s gift to the world. They have a good loyal group of friends and they aren’t that welcoming to anyone else. If you mess with him, his friends will show no mercy when letting you have it. The Montreal Canadiens are those snobs. Plus they’re French — we all know they are in a league of their own.
The Independents: Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, and Ottawa Senators. These are the guys that are just there. They satisfy the needs of different girls for different reasons. They just don’t do it for me though. You’ll be nice and wave your fingers and say “hi” whenever you see them, but that’s about it.
The One True Love: That is the guy that is marriage material. He can do no wrong in your eyes. You will stand by his side no matter what. If he’s sick, you’ll be there for him as he gets healthy again. Even if he’s not successful, you’ll proudly be on his arm letting everyone know that he’s still your man. He’s been there for you through thick and thin and will never leave your side. With every relationship there is some disappointment and hard times, but he always finds a way to make it up to you and you still love him. You two are a match made in Heaven. That team for me would be…well, I don’t know yet…
What if I fall in love with my Friend with Benefits? What if The Nice Guy doesn’t finish last? What if The Guy I Lost My Virginity To puts a ring on it? What if The Boy Next Door turns out to be the man of my dreams? What if one of The Party Boys shows that there’s more to him than being able to throw a good party? These are all questions that only time will tell. Until then, I’m going to let loose, have a good time, and enjoy the ride.