June 17, 2018 -This was my first tabling experience, at a large event in Trenton, a 24-hour arts festival called “Art All Night,” which we intended to staff from 3 p.m. on Saturday until 3 p.m. on Sunday. I convinced another night-owl friend of mine, Lorraine, to sign up for the 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. shift. We arrived early to take in the performance art, music, energy with thousands of others. We worked our shift, for three-and-a-half hours, asking people to “Imagine a World Without Gun Violence” by writing their answer to that prompt on colorful pieces of paper to add to our interactive mosaic art piece. It was a good time.
When our shift ended, we took our time making our way through the long converted factory building so we could take in more art. We were not halfway through the space barely 10 minutes later, when the stampede began. I was still trying to make sense of it when I heard the gunshots. A barrage in quick succession. Too many to count.
The crowd had overtaken us. I grabbed Lorraine and started to run with her. Since she walks with a cane, we could only run as fast as she could, not as fast as everyone else. I thought to myself, “This can’t be happening. We were JUST talking about this!” I tried not to think about the women who we left behind at our table, in the direction of the gunfire.
The crowd ran out the far side of the building, leaving us slower ones with just a handful of people. We ducked behind a thin piece of plywood that was displaying paintings. Out of sight, but not behind something that could stop a bullet. I thought “this is what the kids have to do, when a school shooter comes in. Hide.”
We were lucky. A police officer came in and escorted us out of the far side of the building. I didn’t know that the two volunteers we had left behind, both medical professionals, were at that very moment providing first aid to victims right in front of our “Imagine a World Without Gun Violence” display. The gunfire, exchanged at first between two men and then by police officers, had broken out right in front of them.
The next day we learned one of the shooting suspects had been killed, 22 were injured, 17 of those by gunfire. Authorities counted more than 70 spent shell casings at the scene.
It became a little harder in that moment to imagine a world without gun violence, but the experience only strengthened my resolve to work for the cause. It was my first Moms Demand tabling experience, but it was not my last.