Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
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It’s been a busy and terrible week for people who work news in Salt Lake City. Exhausting not only because of the hours and extra work, but because of the emotional toll a story like the shooting at Trolley Square has on the reporters on the street and the producers and others who work behind the scenes.
I wish I would have snapped a picture of the newsroom the night it happened. You would see managers who never work the evening hours back at the station doing their best to help (and stay out of the way). Reporters dropped everything and got out on the streets. The newsroom was buzzing as we went into long form coverage. People were working the phones, taking notes, building lists of what was confirmed and unconfirmed and feeding the information to the studio. Anchors were composed as they became the voice of the tragedy unfolding for four and a half hours non-stop.
You feel vulnerable after something so insidious happens. A naked feeling about when and where you are safe. You want to know the motive behind the gunfire. Hearing investigators say the victims shot by Sulejmen Talovic were picked at random doesn’t help you feel better. So many questions: Why did he do it? Was it his early childhood in war-torn Bosnia? Were there warning signs? Could someone have helped him before he went over the edge? Will it happen again?
Interesting how in the same event you see examples of both the depths in human depravity and heights of heroism. We don’t know yet what drove Talovic to do what he did and we don’t know why he decided to take five lives or as many as he could manage before his own life was taken in what some speculate was “suicide by cop”. We do know police officers stepped up and responded without backup to stop more deaths. We know they risked their lives moving quickly, ending it within 6 minutes of the first shot. Ogden officer Kenneth Hammond sprung into action, knowing he was taking a risk because he was in plain clothes carrying a gun and uniformed officers could have mistaken as the shooter. It was a risk he was willing to take in order to stop the bloodshed from continuing. The Salt Lake City officers weren’t afraid to engage Talovic either and, with help from swat team members who entered from behind, took Talovic down.
We found other heroes that night. A couple who lives nearby Trolley Square invited 70 people into their home shortly after the shooting. Many of the frightened shoppers had dropped everything, purses, cell phones and needed a way to reach loved ones and let them know they were okay. Store owners showed courage as well by getting customers to safety in locked back rooms, in freezers when they could have fled from their stores to safety by themselves.
One of my reporters was here when the Triad Center was the target of another refugee, this one from Vietnam. De Kieu Duy opened fire inside the halls that I walk every day. That reporter was just 20 feet from where Duy fired some the shots. He says he still feels unsettled some of the time and looks at the exits in a lot of the businesses he frequents in case someone starts shooting at random. Broadcast House is a changed place with security entrances and bullet proof glass.
Another one of my reporters recently moved here from out of state. He’s worked in the business for more than 15 years in several cities. He says Salt Lake is still the most civilized place he has ever lived. He says he knows this type of thing doesn’t happen here frequently. He doesn’t think this is the beginning of a new, dark chapter. I have a feeling deep, down (and I believe it is more than hope) he is right.
I went shopping yesterday with my children at a large department store. I did think about the shooting six days ago but it didn’t stop me. I won’t dwell on it. I can’t pretend to know what people who witnessed the shooting are going through. I wish them the best and hope they don’t go through a lifetime of looking at the “exits”.
We can’t let this tragedy make us fearful. I don’t normally shop at Trolley Square but I may have to pay a visit.