My heart is broken. Yesterday the unthinkable happened … in my city … in the middle of a Sunday afternoon … during a video game tournament … at the place I consider my second home … at The Jacksonville Landing.
There has been so much tragedy in our country lately and it’s unfathomable, but it really shakes you when it’s so close to home.
I have so many emotions running through me right now and feel that I just need to get them out, and I do that best through writing. So here I am. I want to cry. I want to throw up. I want to go hug every single person at The Landing. Every single person I know. I want to snuggle my baby. I want to hold my husband’s hand.
The Jacksonville Landing is a place near and dear to my heart, and I’m so upset about what happened. I used to be the Public Relations Manager there. Did you know that? I interned and worked there for nearly four years, and the current PR Manager was my wonderful intern. The General Manager is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. The owners have been nothing but amazing to me since my very first day back back on January 5, 2009. I’m so proud to call them all my friends. My heart aches for all of them knowing what they are having to deal with on a business and personal level, and I can’t even imagine being in their shoes right now. Even though I wish were so I could do something to help.
That feeling I had when I heard the news of yesterday’s shooting … I’ll never forget it. My mother-in-law called to make sure we were okay because she knows we frequent The Landing. I was so confused. I opened Twitter to see “shooting at Jacksonville Landing” flooding my feed. My heart stopped. All day I’ve been fighting back tears. I can’t shake the feeling of terror, dread, uncertainty, sadness, tragedy, confusion … I am heartbroken.
But this post isn’t about me. I’m fine. I wasn’t in the area and I don’t personally know any of the victims. But it is about my community. My Landing family. Those who lost their lives. Those who were injured. Those who were there to witness something no one should ever have to see. The families of the victims. The family of the shooter. The JSO, first responders and Landing security who rapidly and so bravely responded to the scene. So many lives have been affected, shattered, changed forever, and for some, taken. There is nothing okay with any of that. My heart goes out to every single one of you. I’m sorry for what you’re going through. You are loved.
To make the situation even worse, this will inevitably turn into an issue against The Landing. How could they allow this to happen? Where was security? Why don’t they check for weapons? When are we just going to tear down The Landing? Those are questions that are quick to surface in times like this. But it’s not The Landing’s fault, and The Landing isn’t a bad place. Not even close.
The Jacksonville Landing is a piece of Jacksonville. It has been the heart of Downtown Jacksonville since 1987 and continues to be an incremental piece of our city. It’s a place of love and happiness, managed by some of the kindest, loving, most hardworking people I’ve ever met in my life. It’s a place of celebration after a football game. It’s a place of supporting local crafters, businesses and restaurants. It’s a place of community events and shows by local performers. It’s a place where non-profits hold fundraising events in support of their cause. A place where dog owners can gather for happy hour. A place where couples get engaged and even married (I helped a man propose to his now wife when I worked there). Where friends meet for lunch. Where boaters dock for a cold drink and live music. Where people travel to watch a national headliner perform in concert. Where dozens of local school groups come together for the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Where families watch fireworks and celebrate our country.
I have so many memories as a kid docking our boat at The Landing and having lunch at Hooter’s (per our request), and playing in the fountain. Road trips from Savannah, stopping there for dinner. When it was time for an internship, The Landing was my top choice and I was overjoyed when I got the offer. Working there introduced me to all that Jacksonville has to offer and made me fall in love with this city which I’ve now lived in for nearly ten years. The owner and his family, the staff and the GM took me under their wing and made sure I was taken care of when I moved away from my family and knew no one here. It played a huge roll in mine and Jimmy’s relationship. We’ve taken Daisy down there countless times for events, lunches and to listen to live music. We’ve eaten at Chicago Pizza (the restaurant the shooting took place) so many times. It could have happened any time. Anywhere.
It’s no doubt that the future of the The Landing will continue to be a hot topic in our city, especially after this incident, which makes this whole thing even more sad.
There’s nothing anyone can say or do that will make this easier for anyone. This has, without a doubt, affected our entire community and SO many lives. It’s not fair. All over a video game. So while you’re sending your thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, try to remember the Landing staff and the first responders as well. And most importantly, remember to be kind. Spread love and peace. Say “I love you” and hug your friends and family. We all have to be the change if we want something to change. It starts with each of us so that things like this don’t continue to happen.