My experience at the LAX airport shooting. A strange day for a fiction writer

My wife and I arrived on a United Airlines flight from Canada at 10:45 AM into Los Angeles Airport on Nov. 1st. Our flight to Palm Springs wasn’t until 3:05, and we had to clear customs, and go back through security.

We were looking forward to lunch somewhere, and I planned to find a corner, and hunker down with my computer, and do some editing on my next Novel, a thriller with numerous victims.

The first time we noticed something was wrong, was when the captain came on the intercom to tell us, “There would be a slight delay in getting us off the plane.” We were to be bussed to the airport, and not use the jetway.

The slight delay turned into two hours. The airport was strangely quiet. Few planes were landing. Police helicopters hovered overhead.

A cabin full of I Phones turned to MSN, CNN and Twitter. In minutes a hushed conversation had broken out amongst the passengers, “A shooting at the airport. Someone shot a TSA Agent.”

Someone asked, “Is it a terrorist attack?”

That was a good question I thought. Since the attacks of September 11th, one attack can lead to another. The attack on the TSA Agent, could have been a decoy, for a major strike somewhere else.

Buses arrived and we were taken to the Customs hall. The Customs Agents looked calm. They processed our small flight, and sent us into the airport.

I’ve been to Los Angeles Airport many times, and the quiet calm in the airport was unusual. I’m used to seeing harried travelers in long lines at Security. There was none of that. People sat quietly on the floor in front of security. Security wasn’t open. Nothing was open, and nothing was moving. This was called Lock Down.

My wife looked at me as we stood in line waiting for a flight that may or may not take off, “This lock down is like the one in your book.”

I’d used the term for a lock down after a murder in the high Arctic, in my new book Polar Bear Dawn. Did I ever expect to experience one…no, not really.

Outside the usually busy road not a car moved. Police cars raced by, their sirens blaring. Then an emergency medical van, then a fire truck. And then…the eerie silence.

Passengers talked quietly about where they were headed and what flight they were about to miss, or if they might make their connection. I thought it strange to be caught up in your destination, when something so tragic as a man has been shot. Someone’s life has ended by violence, and you wonder if it’s going to affect your vacation.

Our journey was altered that day, by the mental imbalance of one man. One man with a gun, and with rage against his government. I learned latter he’d called himself a “pissed off patriot.”

He, Paul Ciancia, a 23 year old with an automatic weapon, calmly shot Gerardo Hernandez, a 39 year old TSA employee, who was just doing his job, protecting passengers from violence in the air. Who knew the violence would begin in the airport?

We ended up picking up our bags and with thousands of other passengers, we walked away from the airport. The Hertz Rental was 2 and 1/2 miles away, and numerous passengers helped us put the bags back on the carts after they fell off when going over curbs and uneven pavement.

I heard one lady on her phone as she walked beside me, “Yeah, I walked out of New York during 9/11, and I’m now walking out of LAX airport.”

The police waved us passed, weary and shocked passengers, looking for hotels, taxis and car rental agencies. News cameras filmed us we walked. I commented to my wife how strange it was to part of the news rather than watching it on T.V.

We listened to the news on the radio as we drove in our car to Palm Spring. A sea of red lights in slow moving bumper to bumper traffic that made a mockery of the term “rush hour.” The radio commented on how the airport was still in lock down. Someone got a hold of a relative of Hernandez, the victim, he was about to turn 40. No one knew the state of the other victims.

We met our friends for dinner on Saturday night. We told them of our experience, and one of them commented how this experience would do well in my next book.

I said nothing, but I realized now that this shooting would never do well in a book. Why? Because this was a random act of violence. As a mystery writer, I know my readers need to see things connected. They want to see that things make sense.

The one thing that does make a connection is the amount of random acts of violence committed in the United States. According to a CBS News report on Wednesday, there were 85 victims of mass shootings in just over 1 year.

The Attorney General of America commented on Oct. 21st of this year, that mass shootings in America had tripled. Maybe that’s the story, the story of the Brain Behind the Gun. What has happened that people want to kill and be killed by violence.

Stephen King commented on this very subject in his book GUNS, a short story on Kindle.

I didn’t read his entire book, but checked out some quotes. He stated that most of the shooters were young, many just boys, and that after the initial coverage, the world went back to watching other things.

I doubt my experience of this shooting will go into any of my books, as I want my readers to see order, even if it’s order in killing. Here there was none.

My heart goes out goes out to Mr. Hernandez and his family, and to those injured and traumatized by the deranged Mr. Ciancia.

As I started writing this Blog, the news came on, another shooting took place in a Mall in New Jersey. A man shot at people, then killed himself. And so it goes, the random acts of crazy violence.

I wish you all safe travels, and to keep your loved ones close.

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