It was less than week ago when Fowler native Shawna Wallace was in the wrong place at the wrong time — the mass shootings in Odessa, Texas, on Aug. 31.
Wallace never thought she would join the growing number of Americas who have directly experienced a mass shooting. After all, she was just visiting family in Odessa.
And, it has changed her life forever.
“Everywhere I go, I feel like I have to watch my back,” Wallace said.
She received a call that day from brother-in-law Fernando Dominguez, who said there was an active shooter nearby.
“We had been at the Music City mall, which is the mall right next to Synergy where the situation kind of took place,” she said.
After the call, she went to join the rest of her family who were in a different part in the mall. As she made her way across the mall, she saw many of the stores were shutting down and a man told her there was an active shooter in the mall.
“I said, 'I understand, Sir, but I have to find my family.'"
She then met with Fernando, his wife Ariana and her 3-year-old nephew and were told by security that the mall was secured and that they should head to the center of the building.
Once they made it to the center of the mall, she said they waited for a while when out of nowhere they all heard gunshots.
“All of a sudden, all of these people are screaming, running, dropping all of their belongings,” she said.
The panic stemmed from people hearing gunshots from outside of Dillard's and thinking that the gunman was either in the building or right outside.
After hiding in the storage room of a printer shop inside the mall for about 45 minutes, security informed them it was safe to come out. They were told that they could leave the mall at their own risk. However, security said, to their knowledge the shooter still was at large.
This information persuaded Wallace and her family to stay in the mall for a couple more hours until the situation was resolved.
“We were just kind of hanging tight, praying to God that we would be OK. Because honestly, all of us were so scared that we really didn't know if we were going to make it,” she said.
Coming from a small town, she said she never expected to be in a situation like the one she faced that day. The 4½-hour-long ordeal had a profound impact on her and her family.
“I’m not against gun laws at all, but I think that there are more people that need to be trained to use them properly,” she said, hoping that there would be more people capable of dealing with such situations.
The attack in Odessa claimed the lives of seven people and left 25 others injured. A lone gunman, stopped for a traffic violation, inexplicably went on a shooting spree before being shot to death by police at a movie theater.
“People really need to be aware and hold their loved ones because you just never know,” Wallace said.