When a fight broke out early Saturday afternoon at the Vineland Premium Outlets in south Orlando people thought they heard shots, panicked and ran for cover. One of them was my younger sister, who called my husband and daughter in a panic, thinking something bad was about to happen in Orlando – again.
She had been shopping at an outlet store, which usually are bustling on Saturdays, when suddenly she was ushered to a back room and employees closed the door, she said. She couldn’t hear anything and didn’t know what was going on. But in an increasingly familiar move, she made the call to family. She called me first but it went to voicemail. Then she called my husband Keith and my daughter.
“I don’t know what’s going but I’m locked in a back room of a store,” whispered my sister so low that Keith could barely hear her.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asked.
“No,” said my sister whose name won’t be published to protect her privacy.
“People were very scared,” she said later. “There was a lot of texting going on.”
Just a week after the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people and left 53 injured, the community is watchful and on edge. Anything can happen at any moment. Something could happen to me. Or you. Next time.
And because anything can happen at any time, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies responded in force. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, more than 20 sheriff’s cars were spotted in the retail outlet’s parking lot by mid-afternoon. Apparently, a fight had broken out and a chair fell to the floor, and that was all that was needed for people to flee in panic. The Sentinel reported that Orange County Fire Rescue took one person to a hospital but no shots had been fired.
But plenty of people had been frightened.
My sister said she was so shaken that immediately after she went to a bar and ordered a shot of tequila to calm her nerves.
“I was very shaken,” she said. “I needed something strong.”
During the incident it was as if she couldn’t stop talking. A woman locked in the room with her signaled for my sister to be quiet as store staff began to give an update, which my sister said was “very vague.”
When she left the store, she noticed the parking lot appeared empty and traffic jams formed at the exits.
In the aftermath of the shooting rampage at Pulse, Orlando is huddling together seeking comfort and warmth from each other. It’s obvious, however, that it will take a while before Orlando feels normal again.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor