Sunday, July 22, 2012

Drama in Sierra Vista

I woke up to tragic news of the movie massacre where a lone gunman in a gas mask and body armor killed 12 people and injured 71 at a midnight premiere of the The Dark Knight Rises in a Denver suburb early Friday morning. It was terrible incident and my heart went to the victims and those affected. I'm currently staying in Arizona, which is a neighboring state but I did not think too much about how the incident would affect me. Little did I know what was in store for me later that day.

Work ended early since it was a Friday. I reached home around 2:30pm, and found out that I could still meet the next screening of TDKR (3:10pm) at the nearby mall, which was just 5 minutes away. I changed, grabbed my stuff and before you knew it the ticket was secured. Got myself a drink and found a good seat (theaters in the US have free seating), and I was pumped and ready for the movie.

What happened 90 minutes into the movie would stay forever etched in my memory. During the scene where Bane blew up parts of Gotham, I suddenly heard shouting from the rear of the theater, towards the left isle. He was shouting "HEY YOU! STOP MOVING!" My eyes were directed to the front of the cinema, where I then noticed a man standing in the open space, by the exit, along the left isle. He was white, tall build, and wore a backpack. All eyes in the cinema were on him at this point in time, as the light from the screen reflected off the seats and the audience, who realised what was happening instantly.

My first thoughts were "No shit.... you have got to be kidding me." The initial reaction I had was to take cover. If I took up prone position he would not be able to see me. More importantly, I figured I might not have enough reaction time to make it to the exit if he was already holding on to a weapon (remember it is legal in some states in the US to obtain guns). To make it out of the theater, I had to go across 6 or 7 seats, and make a round about turn by the right isle. It seemed like the length of a marathon race at that instant.

But before I could find a place to hide, the people on my left were already scrambling towards me. I did not really have a choice except to try and make it out towards the right side exit. The situation was chaotic, as there were people screaming and shouting, and as I made my way out people were falling and crawling out. Once out of the cinema, I turned back and saw many girls and women who were crying, and being comforted by their partners.

By this time, my heart was racing and the adrenaline was pumping. Hard. It was the first time in my life that I felt I was running for my life. Thoughts ran through my head, but the most important and obvious one was the instinct to stay alive. I circled for a while outside the ticketing booth, to see if more people made it out, but it was very confusing to see people outside totally oblivious to what was happening inside the cinema. I didn't know what to do. Should I alert them to evacuate? Should I return to the cinema? To be honest, I was really lost and the only thing I could do was to return to the hotel. After calming my nerves, I went out again and wanted to see if the police arrived, but there was nothing. Everything seemed peaceful on the outside.

Around 2 hours later, I checked the website of the local news agency and they reported the incident. I quote: "SIERRA VISTA — Cochise County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a homeless man after he disrupted a local theater Friday, causing moviegoers to evacuate less than a day after a gunman opened fire at a Colorado theater." Needless to say, it was my most exciting day in the US thus far. For those concerned, I am not injured nor emotionally scarred, less a gash on my arm when I scratched myself against the walls of the exit corridor. I would most likely be completing the movie either today or tomorrow. I need to know the conclusion. Until the next post, take care!

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