The escalator came to an abrupt stop. Tired, irritable shoppers trudged the remainder of its metal steps. Sandy held her four-year-old son’s hand. “Come on, Tommy, we’d better go.”
“But, I wanna ice cream. You promised… and I have to go to the bathroom.”
Sandy looked around for a sign to direct them to the restroom. “Great idea! Then we’ll collect Kathy from school.”
Leaving the restroom, they made their way to the food court and stood in line at the ice cream shop. People bustled about with shopping bags, pushing and shoving their way through the food court. Sandy thought about the cute pink bunny Tommy had chosen for his sister Kathy’s birthday, and the gold bracelet that she had engraved for her. Glancing down at the shopping bag, Sandy saw a little pink ear poking out of the top. She smiled as she caught sight of the evening dress she had purchased for the church’s missionary dinner on Saturday.
Tommy chose vanilla ice cream with gummy bears and chocolate sprinkles. His mother chose a vanilla yogurt cone. After paying the clerk, they walked, hand-in-hand, toward the exit, the shopping bag swinging gently between them. “You have ice cream on your nose,” Sandy chuckled.
Tommy looked up with a huge, creamy grin. “I love shopping with you, Mummy.”
The explosion was deafening. Multitudes of light fixtures flickered wildly before casting the mall into a dingy darkness. Sandy lost her footing as the floor shook violently and suddenly gave way beneath her feet, separating her from Tommy. She fell away into… emptiness.
She heard the screams. She felt the pain, then… nothing.
Sandy woke to the sound of pounding jackhammers and distant sirens. Screams of panic sounded hollow and far away. She coughed violently, spitting out dust and concrete fragments. Pain shot up her leg, ripping through her thigh like a fiery dagger. Dizziness threatened to overcome her. In the darkness, the smell of sour yogurt mingled with dust, assaulted her nostrils. She vomited. What happened?
When the nausea subsided, she used her hands to assess her immediate surroundings. She was lying on her back, face-up. Directly above her there was a chunk of concrete which sloped upwards. She traced her hands across it and down behind her head. She recoiled when she touched what felt like someone’s arm. Her legs were pinned under a pile of debris. “Tommy, Tommy, where are you, Tommy?” she began to scream, but her own voice ricocheted off the walls of her dark, tiny tomb.
Fear threatened to engulf her. She began to weep quietly and pray. Closing her eyes to avoid further irritation from the dust and grit, she recited scripture she had been memorizing. When verses no longer came, she began to sing. Tears trickled down her face. Muffled cries for help continued—some ceased. Intermittent showers of debris rained down around her while the sound of constant drilling of jackhammers pounded in her head. Please, Lord, let them find us. Her thoughts wandered to her husband, Bob, and their children. Praying soothed her anxiety for Tommy.
Sandy reached out again in search of the limb she had touched earlier and discovered it had broken off a store mannequin. Relief washed over her. The ear-shattering din from the drilling stopped.
“Anyone down there? Hello, can you hear me?” The voice seemed to come from all around her.
“My name is Sandy Reagan,” she sobbed. “I was shopping with my son, Tommy. He’s almost five and wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine tee shirt. I can’t … hic… find … hic …him,” she hiccupped.
“Sandy, please stay calm. We’ll find him. We’ve already moved a lot of concrete, but we have to know how stable it is and your condition. What can you tell us?”
Several frantic hours later, nursing a frightful headache, a broken leg and the need for several stitches in her thigh, Sandy was eased from the rubble. Bob and Kathy were waiting by the ambulance. Tommy was asleep in his father’s arms, his hair matted with blood from a cut above his eye—his only injury. Sandy cried tears of joy, thanking the Lord for the safe ending to their shopping trip. Their purchases no longer mattered—her son was safe. Memorizing more of God’s promises, would be a priority in her recovery.
That evening, newsrooms everywhere reported the tragedy at the mall. No one had yet claimed responsibility for the bombing….
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