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Columbia Residents Pull Together After Mall Shooting

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People can be seen leaving the mall after a shooting was reported.

People can be seen leaving the mall after a shooting was reported.

Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — From shock to a sobering aftermath. That’s what some in Columbia are dealing with Sunday.

Alex DeMetrick has a look at a community pulling together.

The impact of this shooting resonates as strongly as it does because where it happened is more than just a mall.

The images from the Columbia Mall after 19-year-old gunman, Darion Marcus Aguilar, opened fire Saturday are not the way this community sees itself or this place.

“It’s a place where our community is. It’s a place that has safety and that safety has been violated,” said Waymon Scott, Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.

“I was pretty scared. I was glad my mom was there and my dad was on the other end of the phone,” said Courtney Birkmeyer.

Birkmeyer and her mother hid in a dressing room Saturday. It was far from normal reliving it like this.

“You remember certain things that perhaps you have forgotten before as we’re now talking about it. It kind of brings it home,” said Sandy Birkmeyer.

It hit home at services at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center just down the street from the mall in the form of sermons and personal counseling.

“Violence is not the answer but we must not get discouraged because God never abandons us,” said parishioner Ann Henderson.

“We’ll be looking for helping someone who has other trauma that this brings to light for them or some difficulty having experienced what they saw yesterday,” said Anne Ober, Catholic Charities Health Services.

“We didn’t see the shooter,” Courtney Birkmeyer said. “Didn’t have to see the victims or the horrifying images.”

As for what was experienced and someday coming back…

“We love this mall. It won’t prevent us from coming back but it’s certainly made us alarmed and a little bit more aware,” said Sandy Birkmeyer.

In an effort to secure some privacy, mall management kept news outlets well away from an area where personal items abandoned by shoppers in the rush to escape were returned.

The Mall in Columbia will set up two memorial sites: one outside Starbucks and another near Lord & Taylor.  It will reopen Monday at 1 p.m. to the general public.

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