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9/11/01: THE DAY THE MALL STOOD STILL (COMPLETE)

9/11/01: THE DAY THE MALL STOOD STILL (COMPLETE)

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"You can't really be closing this early," I said. "It's only 11:30." The woman behind the Taco Bell counter at the food court in Oak court Mall nodded an affirmative affirmative.' "Oh yes we can." "Well, can I at least get a bean burrito?" She sized me up, laughed, and muttered soemting to the effect of "Gonna get something to eat before you die, huh?" Before I die? What did she know that I didn? Still, she ordered my (possibly last) meal, took my money, and returned correct change, I guess. If I was indeed doomed, as was suggested, what did a few cents matter? "Has there been some kind of threat made against the mall? I asked the woman. She shrugged nonchalantly and handed me a note. It was a memo addressed "to alL store managers, owners, all management." "Due to national events," it read, "and for the safety of our shoppers and employees Simon Property Group has made the decision to close all Simon properties as well as the corporate office in Indianapolis, Indiana. Malls will reopen Wednesday, September 12th, at regularly scheduled business hours. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you for your immediate attrention to this matter." The steadily mounting combination of terror and sickness, which had begun shortly after my typically peaceful morning coffee had been interrupted by the day's awful news, began to escalate. This time all the paranoia was real. the mall was indeed closing.I toured both floors and found that, wih the lone exception of a nail salon, every metal screen had been pulled down. Most shops were empty, though some employees stood behind their cages staring out like prisoners, faces as blank as the front page of the daily news on the day after the end of the world. A helpful mall employee escorted me to the security office. As we walked through the empty, echoing expanse, my concern peaked. Terrorism that leads to the mass closing of our public spaces is mighty effective terrorism.... "You don't have permission to be here," the security guard said quietly but sternly. "Has there been a threat?" "I'm not going to answer any qestions," he said, kindly referring me to the mall offices. They too were closed. On the way out, I asked another security guard, "Why exactly is the mall closing?" "I'd tell you,but I could lose my job," he answered with a nervous stammer. "Are you a reporter?" I thought about lying. I sensed he would tell me if I said no. "Yes," I said. "I'm a reporter." Silence. "They evacuated Disney World," a voice on the radio said as I pulled away. Score one for the terrorists. They even brought our dreams to a grinding halt. For a moment anyway.

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