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Last week I had the opportunity to volunteer at a consignment sale. It was in a large college town about an hour from home, and located in an empty storefront inside a mall on the town's main strip.
I have never worked in a retail store, and while the crazy long lines were a bit stressful at first, as the pace slowed it became fun. Most people were patient and happy with their purchases, talking about how excited they were about giving these items to their children and grandchildren. I enjoyed helping the customers and talking with the other volunteers, although we all joked about how sore our feet would be after a full day of standing on concrete - something this SAHM rarely does anymore.
The atmosphere changed around supper time, though, as we noticed flashing blue lights outside the store windows. We couldn't see anything else in the parking lot, however, and shoppers kept lining up for help, so we didn't think too much about it until the owner of the sale walked up and asked where we were parked.
"There's a bomb threat outside, somewhere near the bank, " she told me. "Are you parked out there?"
I was, actually, in the bank lot itself, and so I left the sale and walked toward the mall entrance, only to be greeted by mall security and policemen standing guard at the door. I overheard them discussing plans to barricade that mall entrance and turned back. If there was nothing to be done for my car and leaving wasn't an option, then I might as well be useful somewhere!
Feeling somewhat dramatic, I tried to call home, but my family wasn't there. How strange it felt to know that there could be a bomb just a few dozen yards away! Of course, that could be the case nearly anytime, but the risk felt higher. Could there be? Why couldn't there be? How bad could it be?
I was reminded of the news coming from our state capital, only about 20 miles from where I stood. Lately as I read the news on a major news website, I see shootings nearly every day. Burglaries and bank robberies, missing children and armed events seem to be common now, and that's changed from when I moved here. It's scary - but still, bombs are still unusual.
As we continued to help the customers who lined up despite the flashing blue lights and increasing caution tape, we got caught up in our work and soon forgot about the whole thing. Suddenly, however, the lights and tape were gone, and traffic had resumed outside the mall.
The normality of it all felt a bit strange, though of course it was wonderful to know that all was well. I still felt a bit edgy until returning home that night and have thought of this often since.
I'm very grateful that I don't live in a city, nor do I have to venture out to them unless I choose to do so. I prefer life in a small town, and while crime is not unheard of here, it is much more rare than in larger cities. I'm thankful for that, as well as being unspeakably happy that this threat was just that: a threat and not something real.
Many people live in places where bombs are real, where car bombs go off often, where the streets are not safe from violence.
I'm happy to live in a place where we're more likely to meet up at playgrounds than over police tape and where a new pizza place is still headlining news.
Will I volunteer at that sale again? Sure - it had nothing to do with whatever threat was outside the mall - but I have a feeling that I'll be watching for those blue lights while there.
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