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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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My Family’s Terror at the NJ Garden State Mall (Video)

Suddenly tens of people start running toward us screaming “There’s a shooter. SHOOTER. Run. Get out.”
I put the kids in the car. I am outside on the phone. I call again. Mercy of mercies, my wife answers. She is trembling as she speaks. “There’s a shooter, Shmuley, right outside a store we’re in. The salesperson saw him. He was carrying an AK-47, holding it in the air. We heard about 6 shots. We’re terrified. Where are you? Get out. Get out of the mall. Are the kids OK?”

I put the kids in the car. I am outside on the phone. I call again. Mercy of mercies, my wife answers. She is trembling as she speaks. “There’s a shooter, Shmuley, right outside a store we’re in. The salesperson saw him. He was carrying an AK-47, holding it in the air. We heard about 6 shots. We’re terrified. Where are you? Get out. Get out of the mall. Are the kids OK?”
Photo Credit: Screen shot

His adviser proceeds to call me every few minutes and calls my wife as well. He is an angel from heaven. Debbie is calmer now because the sounds of the gunshots have subsided.

Suddenly the people in the parking lot are running as well. “Gun shots, gun shots,” they scream. I can swear I hear loud pops. I get into the car. I am driving in circles in the parking lot. I want to be safe with the kids, but I don’t want to leave the mall because my wife and daughter are inside.

I am calling my wife every minute, getting her to assure me she is OK and that her cell phone is not going to die. “Don’t leave me with no way to contact you and don’t leave where you are. And tell the people with you to speak softly.”

The children in the back of the car are crying. I am trying to assure them that their mother and sister are going to be fine. God is going to protect them. I tell them we have to pray. We recite Psalm 20 in Hebrew. We repeat it. I call my wife again. She is telling me she is OK and that there is no sound of gunfire. They continue to hide in the store room.

I drive out of the parking lot and reach a 7-11 so the kids can buy something and calm down. There is a woman outside shaking, speaking on her cell phone. She tells me she was in Nordstrom’s, heard all the shots, and ducked under the clothing and hid. She got out. Her family who was with her are safe. She asks if I have anyone inside the mall and I tell her. She tells me she prays my family will be safe.

On Twitter I spread the word of the shooting. I ask everyone to pray for the people inside without saying that my wife and daughter are there. I ask over and over again to pray generally that the people within should emerge safely.

I am calling my wife every few minutes. I am thinking to myself that America has gone crazy. This past Friday night, for Shabbat dinner, the main point of conversation of our guests was the terrible shooting in Los Angeles at LAX and the other shootings that week at schools. Now, we’re at the center of it. Could this really be happening?

My wife finally tells me that she thinks they are beginning to evacuate people. They can see scores of police outside the store. I tell her not to move until they come for her.

I get the kids back into the car and we drive to a parking lot overlooking the Garden State mall where we can see SWAT teams moving into the building and a growing police presence. There are helicopters overhead.

Senator Booker calls in terrible anxiety to ask if my wife is OK. At that moment, as if by a miracle, she calls on the other line and tells me that the SWAT teams have come to move them out. I connect the calls on my phone. Cory, ever the gentleman, tells my wife not to panic and he is so happy to hear she is OK. His warmth and caring comforts us both.

A few moments later my wife calls me to tell me she is safely out. SWAT members screamed to them to move out with their hands in the air. A military scene was all around her as they made them run out of the building. SWAT members, she says, fill the entire mall. The gunman is still at large and they are briskly moving people out, with bullet proof shields protecting them.

With heartfelt thanks, I begin reciting Psalm 91. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.” I also think to myself how incredible and brave the police are.

My wife and daughter are safe. It’s a miracle. Thank you, Oh Lord, for your kindness to me and my family, I say to myself. I will try and be a better person, a better servant of yours, Oh Lord. Thank you, Lord, for Your protection and goodness.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

About the Author: Shmuley Boteach, whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of The World Values Network and the international bestselling author of 30 books, including “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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