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Magic in a Crisis: The Disney Store Kept Families Safe during Springfield Mall Shooting

In the midst of panic, one store went above and beyond to protect and comfort its littlest patrons.

On the afternoon of October 20, Katie Fusaro and her family were getting into the Halloween spirit a little early at the Springfield Mall. She and her husband, Dan, had brought their two little girls six-year-old Gabriella and four-year-old Alexandra, as well as their three-year-old niece Ella, to the Disney Store’s Haunted Halloween Party. Dressed in their costumes, they enjoyed a half-hour of games, scavenger hunts, and more family fun. They especially liked when they had to do “mummy walks” and scary faces to chase the Disney Villains away.

 

Meanwhile, a fistfight inside the mall spilled out into the parking lot, where shots were fired. Though thankfully no injuries were reported, the situation sent waves of crisis throughout the mall. “At about 1:20 is when fun turned into complete horror,” Fusaro described.

 

Sobering footage shows little kids in costume walking to the exit with their hands up—a precaution which should be foreign to toddlers, but has increasingly become part of our nation’s story. In fact, one of Fusaro’s little girls had just gone through an active shooter drill that week at her school. “It’s so scary to think—when I was that age we had tornado drills. It’s pretty scary raising children now,” she reflected.

 

While panic spread, and many stores in the mall were closing their gates and telling customers to run, Disney Store employees were directing their guests to hide in the back storage room. Fusaro recalls feeling confused, only able to get updates about what was happening around her in worried phone messages from family and friends. Her daughter Alexandra asked her, “Mommy, are we hiding from the Villains?”

 

Despite the utter fear of the moment, the workers at the Disney Store felt a responsibility to their young guests, and acted with kindness and purpose. They “instantly started handing out pretzels, fruit snacks, and cookies for the kids. I then hear the manager…tell her employees ‘do whatever you need to, give out anything,’” Fusaro recalls. So the employees tore pages from a coloring book, and passed them out to the kids along with crayons.

 

Disney could not be reached for comment, but we at Main Line Parent would like to thank the employees of the Springfield Mall Disney Store from the bottom of our hearts for showing such compassion to your guests that day. “They made every single effort to keep all of us safe and the kids occupied until it was safe for us to leave,” Fusaro recalls.

 

Thanks to those actions, Fusaro reports that her kids thankfully remain largely unaffected by the incident. When all was safe, and the families left amidst police presence, she recalls her four-year-old daughter asking, “Are the police here to get the Villains?” not grasping what had just happened around her. “They think it’s Disney Villains,” Fusaro told us. “They don’t know there are real villains.”

 

If you and your family are struggling after experiencing a crisis situation, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website suggests ways to talk to children of all ages and abilities, as well as signs a child may not be coping well after a trauma.

 

Photograph from iStock.com/hoozone.

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Philadelphia Assistant Editor | Email tips to laura@familyfocus.org

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