Mall shootings never start on time, and the "massacre" that occurred Tuesday afternoon was no exception. While about 50 7th- to 12th-grade Dallas Lutheran students arranged themselves inside Valley View Center in various states of death and grievous injury, 22 paramedics, 11 ambulances, one command center and a few battalion command trucks -- all spitshined -- waited for the 911 call. And waited. And waited a little more.
And then it came: Mall shooter runs into a field trip at mall! And: Carnage ensues.
Wait, a field trip in the mall?
"Well," says the school's executive director, David Bangert, "maybe it's just for lunch after a field trip."
At the food court? That's really besides the point. The point is, per Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans, to assess triage, treatment and transport components of the department, evaluating readiness for just such a "mass casualty incident."
Once the first ambulance showed up and gauged the situation, they notified other units, which showed up shortly thereafter. Before long, they were wheeling teenagers on gurneys out of the mall and loading them into the waiting ambulances in the loading bay, which smelled of diesel exhaust and trash from the food court.
I'm not sure what was more entertaining -- the smirking young man with a bleeding gunshot wound to the neck mugging for the cameras from the gurney, or the nonplussed afternoon Valley View shoppers (a rare breed indeed) who appraised the growing crowd of idling ambulances, purposeful-looking paramedics, policeman and bloody teens, then continued on into the mall anyway.
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Emily Pinto, a blond 18-year-old senior, displayed proudly the fairly gruesome entry and exit wounds on her arm. "Gunshot wound to the arm," she said. "Yep, it's through-and-through."
I strolled over to the battalion chief's truck, where he arranged magnets on a dry erase board and barked commands to the paramedics standing by, choreographing the movements of the various units. "We need two rescue units to report to the green triage area!"
"Where's Rescue 72?"
At some point, I heard the thwop of a CareFlite helicopter, which landed in an empty lot near the parking garage. Pilots in blue flight suits, with the help of a few paramedics, transferred a woman from the gurney to the helicopter. Then she sat up and climbed out. And that was it: Calamity and controlled chaos at Valley View Center, courtesy the Dallas Fire-Rescue.