Wednesday, January 25, 2023



Nine years ago today there was a shooting at the Mall in Columbia. It rocked our community. This morning Facebook reminded me of that day with an image that was widely shared in the aftermath of the shooting where three people died.

It was posted as a sign of unity by community members that were reeling from the weekend’s events.

Oddly enough, we were just looking at the People Tree yesterday, but for very different reasons (that have nothing to do with unity.)

Columbia/HoCo came together as one in response to the tragedy nine years ago. The support from all over our area prompted me to write this piece:

Who Is My Neighbor? January 27, 2014

Well, they say you really get to know who your friends are when times are tough. It is important to remember who we saw rushing in to help: Howard County Police and Fire Department first responders. Stepping up to the microphone to communicate and reassure: Howard County Government. They didn't come "from the outside" to help Columbia. This is every bit as much their jurisdiction as any other community in Howard County.

What I remember most about those days, as the horror of the actual shooting began to fade, was the feeling expressed by many that they didn’t want the “Columbia Mall Shooting” to define who we were as a community. They didn’t want people to think that this was “the kind of place where those things happen.”

Nine years on, the list of places where “those things happen” is devastatingly long. January 25, 2014 in Columbia, Maryland looks like a tiny blip. Not to us, of course. Not to people who were there when it happened, or had family members there, or who lost loved ones. Here at home that day feels personal. 

But in the wide world of Google I could barely find it. 

Three weeks and 39 mass shootings: this is America in 2023, analysis by Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Nine years ago I read the following and was chilled by how easy it was to buy the gun that brought death to the Mall in Columbia.

[The shooter] purchased the shotgun in mid-December at a Rockville gun shop. The gun store owner said in an interview that [the customer] was friendly, paid for the $430 pump-action shotgun with cash, and said he planned to use it in his home for protection. - - Justin Fenton and Justin George, Baltimore Sun

It’s 2023 and it is still far too easy to buy a gun. Multiple guns. Weapons meant for the battlefield, not for personal protection.

We needn’t have worried that Columbia would become known as “that place with the Mall shooting.” Our notoriety has been surpassed many, many times over. 

Now we’re known as the place where the Board and the President can’t get along. 

Much improved, right?

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