CITY HALL SHOOTING/CHILDREN
After the shooting, scary hours for Downtown parents
By Jane Flanagan
A tragedy last week at City Hall. A popular Brooklyn councilmembers life cut in half, his family grieving and his constituents mourning the loss of one of their most prominent voices.
And for those of us who live Downtown, another scary day. When I first heard about the gunshots at City Hall, I was sitting at my desk at work. My son, Rusty, 5, was with my babysitter. Where, I wasnt exactly sure.
I called Veera on her cell phone. She and Rusty were at a pool in Lower Manhattan having fun.
I tuned into a radio for details. I heard that the perpetrator was in hand, possibly dead.
I went back to my desk. But, I couldnt concentrate. I wanted to know more about what happened. I stood up and walked back over to the radio.
Then I heard. The gunman was NOT in hand. He was at large. I then learned that the bridges, nearby subways and tunnels were shut. The area was in lockdown.
At large? Lockdown?
I know how much armed security there is at City Hall. I thought, If this guy is at large, well, hes got to be more than just a lone, crazy person. How did he get out of there?
I tried to calm myself with other possibilities. Perhaps, he was successfully hiding inside.
But a lone, crazy person would he be able to do that?
I returned to my desk, but I couldnt concentrate.
The thoughts kept coming.
Is this a terrorist?
Are they planning anything else? Should I leave my office now to get my child?
Im a natural hysteric. I realize not everyone jumps to such terrifying suppositions.
But Im a Mom. I was here with my son on 9/11. So I suppose anytime, anything of this proportion happens Ill always get hysterical until convinced otherwise.
I started calling Veera.
After assuring myself that she and Rusty were okay, I contemplated what to do next.
Should I tell her to go home immediately? Stay put? Should I go to her and Rusty now?
I decided to stay at work. I kept telling myself not to let my hysterical nature get the better of me. It was somewhere between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (The gunshots had occurred at 2:08 p.m.) I had a deadline to meet.
I kept half-an-ear cocked to the goings on around me. One colleague had the radio on low, another was checking news Web sites. I tried to tune out any information that would make me more hysterical updates on the number of shots fired, how many people were being taken out on stretchers, more tunnel closings. I listened for one piece of information.
It came shortly after 5 p.m.
The gunman was killed, said my editor, reading off a Web site. He was killed right away.
I worked out the remainder of the day. Walking home I discovered that I was exhausted. When I got there my son was happily playing with his toy cars. Veera was relaxed, just curious to know what happened.
But a nagging thought continued.
Why, if the gunman was killed right away, didnt the police and the mayor know it? Why did they say he was at large? Why did I have to be scared like that?
I called up the police press office.
Det. Kevin Czartoryski, a spokesperson, explained. It appeared as if, after the shots rang out, the police were left with two dead bodies and a missing shooter. At first they thought that Richard Burt, the police officer who killed the gunman, might have been the perpetrator. Burt was new to City Hall and police there didnt know him. He was filling in on Council Speaker Gifford Millers protection detail. Burt was also in plainclothes. After he killed the gunman, he fled the chambers to locate Miller. The police didnt know where he went.
And while they had the dead body of the gunman, they didnt know he was the gunman. They didnt know who he was.
Well, I certainly understand that.
I just hope I dont have to spend another afternoon like that anytime soon.