Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Navigating This New World

Driving from Orlando to Atlanta today, with four children who were EXTRA amazing!  (And I can NOT always say that!) gave way to many hours of thinking.   I alluded to another struggle from our trip in my last post about Christmas. While I'm still not sure any of my thoughts are going to come out in a coherent bundle, I'm going to try.

It seems we're beginning to live in a new world.  A world I'm not at all ready to become a part of.  A world that I as a parent am struggling to comprehend.  A world where hypervigilance becomes commonplace and suspicion has tendency to reign.

But I don't WANT to live in this world.

On Friday, December 25 we went as a family to Downtown Disney (ok, so it's Disney Springs now... but it's going to be Downtown Disney to me for a LONG time to come.)  When we go to places like this, we usually go right when they open.  We do this not because I want to be early everywhere, but because it's the time when there are usually the least amount of people, which helps tremendously when you have kids with anxiety.  Also, we can get a parking space without searching forever, and close enough that we don't have to walk far.   But, on Christmas day, we were not rushing through gifts.  We planned to go to a movie at Downtown Disney, but we didn't plan a time, it was more of a "wait and see when we're done."  So we didn't get there when they opened, or when the first showing of Star Wars began.  Instead we arrived at 1:00 for the 2:15pm show.  My mom waited in line while the kids and I went to a few of the new stores.  I was looking forward to checking out the new Ganachery they opened! 

We were able to go to the Marvel and Star Wars stores (so fun!) and saw the Ganachery.  But, as the shop is quite small, they only allow about 6 patrons at a time and there was a line outside.  No time for that with kids, some of whom were on the verge with their anxiety with the heat and crowd already!  So we headed back and found out that our 2:15 show was sold out.  Grandma had gotten tickets for the 6:00 show but since we were already struggling, we returned the tickets and went to another theater which was not packed.  (side note - we LOVED Star Wars!!!)

That night, after Liam and Macy were asleep, Olivia and I went back to Downtown Disney.  We hoped to get to the Ganachery and a few other places before going back the next day with the family.  Grandma had given the kids Disney money and they were planning on going to the other side to hit up the toy stores.  (I did not know at the time that with all the construction the only way in currently is where we came in for the movies.  We had planned to park at the other side near those stores.)

We walked and stopped at a shop where I found some new sandals and then FINALLY got to the Ganachery!  Such an amazing place!!!  Just after that our night completely changed.

There was a cute kiosk outside between the Ganachery and TRex and I stopped to look at some picture frames.  As Olivia and I were in the store, I noticed a man call sternly to each of his three daughters.  They seemed very perplexed as to why he was calling them out, but I didn't understand what he said since it was in a different language.   I turned and saw a few other families acting similarly.  I still didn't know what was happening.  All of a sudden things were happening quickly.  I heard someone say "shots fired",  I saw people hurrying away from the way we had come, my pulse quickened, my fear spiked.  Looking back I think one of the worst parts was that this was not a surprise.  It wasn't something I or others dismissed.  It was pure fear immediately that this. was. happening.  And we knew "what" it was... whether an act of terrorism or someone with unbridled rage, it was a shooter situation and we needed to take action.  Never a question.

I took Olivia and started toward TRex.  She still didn't understand but was growing more and more scared as she saw others.  We went in the front portion of TRex to get out of the path.  Downtown Disney is honestly a perfect place for something like this to happen.  It's one main path, MANY MANY people (way more than were there at 1 this afternoon), and with all the construction there are very few exits.

Inside TRex others were standing around wondering what was happening as we were.  It was still somewhat calm, subdued.  All of a sudden people were RUNNING full on as a mob into TRex where we were.  The group we were in all went in and around the corner to go out into a front section of the restaurant.  We were starting to panic.  Olivia and I were crouched against the front wall of the restaurant with a "wall" of maybe six or seven people deep in front of us all crouching down and trying to hide.  People were crying, praying, holding their families.  My thoughts were that we were either getting shot or watching others get shot and with all the people in front of us I thought gruesomely that we would most likely be ok but those in front of us would not.  It was not even a question, I thought it was happening.

With Olivia's history of trauma, she reacts physically to major stressors.  This was not an exception.  She was shaking and her legs went paralyzed.  She couldn't feel them or move.  After what felt like a long time but was most likely not long at all people began getting up and moving into the restaurant.  We followed.  Employees shut and locked all doors while we waited to see what was going on.  Olivia and I moved toward the back.  We paid attention to where the back exit was.  We talked about what to do if something else happened.  I worked at calming Olivia down.  I asked for water and the employees were nice enough to get some for Olivia.  I kicked myself for letting my phone battery run so low as I was texting a friend to keep in contact with someone.  Three times I almost texted her my mom's number "just in case" but kept deleting it.  I just couldn't go there.

Finally they opened back up and told us all that there was an all clear.  We slowly got up and ready to leave.  We had to go back the way we came to get to the garage.  Back the way the incident happened.  The whole way I talked to Olivia calmly but also talked about some of the things I learned recently in an article I read about active shooter situations.  About paying attention to exits wherever you are.  About running in a zig zag pattern to get away from anything happening.  As we made our way back we passed a woman throwing up on the side.  A security officer walking by on his walkie talkie.  The section of shops with the Ganachery with all of their fire alarms going off.  Two officers in bullet proof vests with guns drawn and on walkies with the words "shots fired" coming in loud and clear.  Making it to our van we saw officers walking the garage looking for ????  We waited a LONG time before even moving since so many were leaving at once.  The whole way home Olivia jumped at every sound, every light.  She slept that night, and has every night since, with the door open.  She came out after 20 minutes asking me to never leave to go anywhere without letting her know.

How did THIS become our world?

How did we begin thinking of shooter situations as "normal".

And why aren't we more shocked at this.

It looks like, after reading what I could online, that what actually happened was a brawl at a nightspot, shattering glass that sounded like shots, and people who took this sound as fact and ran with it.  As far away from us as this was, I can't imagine what the chaos was like closer to the point of beginning since it was so hard as far away as we were.

I'm so grateful we hadn't brought Braeden with us.  But my girl, with the trauma background, now has more trauma to deal with.

I did go the next day back to Downtown Disney.  But I went by myself with the two boys.  Olivia could NOT go back.  But I needed to go back.  I needed to wrap my head around this and see it by the light of day.  And the boys would have a very hard time not following through with the plan to go and use their gifts.  It was actually harder than I thought it would be parking in the same garage, walking the same paths.  Olivia texted me quite a few times while I was gone asking if all was ok.  Asking when we were coming back. 

It infuriates me that such a night tainted a place that has always been such a happy memory for myself and the kids.

But I also kick myself for not having a stronger faith.  I think if I had been in that situation alone I may have reacted differently, but being there as a parent and working to keep Olivia calm and ok overrode everything else in those moments.  I prayed with Olivia during this time.  I talked to her about God having us and being in control.  But how steadfast was I in this belief?  Why didn't I rely more heavily on Him.  I let emotion take over.  I need to remember that no matter what happens in this world, that He is still the almighty.   Time and again I fail at this.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding

We are good.  We are safe.  

But since then I have held my kids closer.  I have thought about friends and cherish them just a bit more.  I have planned some letters I hope to send once we're home.

Maybe this was an eye opener for me.  Maybe through this God has planted other seeds.  Maybe it will be used in ways yet to be revealed.


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About Me

I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!

Olivia - 14

Olivia - 14

Braeden - 11

Braeden - 11

Liam - 9

Liam - 9

Macy - 5

Macy - 5

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Little did I know that a dream has it’s own timing
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Little did I know that they would choose to call me mom

But God knew all along and He had a plan to follow
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