An eerie, surreal feeling – that’s what one Minden woman says she felt following the movie theater shooting in Lafayette Thursday that left two people dead and nine injured.
Sandra Brown Samuel and her husband, Dawson, were in Lafayette on business the day of the shooting, and that night decided to go see a movie. She says they looked up movies showing at the Grand 16 Theatre and didn’t see anything they wanted to watch, so they decided not to go.
“We had just gone to eat dinner, and we were coming back around the exact same time, and we’re at the intersection right by the theater and Dawson made the comment, ‘You want to go to the movies?’, and I said, ‘Yeah, let me look it up,” she said. “We didn’t see anything so we decided not to go.”
They returned to their hotel and started watching the television, flipping channels, and stopped when they saw what happened at the theater.
“We were very thankful,” she said. “It was kind of eerie – eerie surreal. The other thing is when we woke up this morning (Friday), we found out that the shooter was in the hotel right next door to us. We can see it from our parking lot. It was really weird, and I could tell by Dawson’s face that it was a really weird feeling, a thankful feeling.”
All of their kids started calling and checking on them, she says, adding that when the media began talking about the young girls, she felt the shooting was “just a senseless, senseless thing that happened.”
“They were just beautiful and all the things they did for their community, and it just makes my heart really sad for everything they’re going through,” Samuel said. “Everyone was just in a state of shock that this happened in their community.”
Jenny Reynolds’ daughter, Abigal, was in Lafayette playing softball, and she says one of her daughter’s friend’s mother was shot in the leg.
“I received information that her friend’s mom is going to be fine. It was just a flesh wound, and that was really good news.”
Reynolds says Abigail, was in a restaurant about two blocks from the Grand 16 Theater when the shooting took place. The group was going to go to dinner and a movie, but they were in the restaurant when it all went down.
“I’m sure it was pretty surreal, even though she was perfectly safe and sound in the restaurant,” she said. “(Abby) said that as soon as it hit the news, the restaurant (workers) turned up all of the televisions, and she said the whole place just got completely silent. Waiters were not moving, forks weren’t clanking against plates, I mean it was just silent and everybody was just staring at the TVs. She said that part was really hard.”
Reynolds works with the Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and for the last few years the state has been training for active shooter scenarios – what works, what they learned and how they have changed protocols.
All of that went out the window for a few short minutes until she knew her daughter was safe, she said.
“That was a weird moment for me,” she said. “Just personally, realizing that it does not matter how much training you’ve had or what the protocols are or what your security clearance guidelines are, when it’s that personal and it’s your baby, all that goes out the window. Physically and externally, I held it together, but inside, I was completely blown to pieces in that instant worry of ‘Oh my God, where is she?’”
All the while, she was receiving updates from GOHSEP as information was coming in, she said.
“You ask yourself, ‘What would I do if something like that happened,’ and what I thought, who I thought I would be in that moment was very different from who I was actually was. It was really an eye opener for me.”
John Houser, of Alabama, went into the Grand 16 Theatre in Lafayette Thursday evening, between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and opened fire in the movie theater showing the movie “Trainwreck.” He killed two women and injured nine others before turning the gun on himself. Local, state and federal officials continue to investigate the shooting as more information comes to light about Houser.