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Woman Reflects On Munich Attack: "Had I Left Work Early, I Might Not Be Alive"

ILLUSTRATION: Guijarro IsabelCastillo
Editor's Note: The author of this piece, who wishes to remain anonymous, told their story to Refinery29's Edith Loehle. The views expressed here are the author's own. This story was originally published on Refinery29's German site. It has been translated from the original German and has been edited for clarity.

I am sitting on the train on my way home, regretting not leaving work an hour earlier so I could still buy my groceries at the shopping centre. That very second, I get a text from my colleague.

"Are you okay?" she asks. "Shots were fired at OEZ [Munich shopping centre Olympisches Einkaufszentrum]. Stay safe!" She sends one horrible piece of news after the other into a group chat on WhatsApp. I feel nauseous, because OEZ is where I’m headed. I’m only a few stops away.

I immediately get off of the train at the next stop: Marienplatz. I don’t live here, but my boyfriend’s brother does. I run towards Isartor, all the while hearing sirens in the background and trying to check current news on my phone. People on the street look irritated, some are running, many are crying and screaming. The outdoor areas are being closed and people are being called inside. When I finally arrive at the apartment, I ring at the door and my boyfriend opens the door, shaking.

I can hear what the news anchors say, but I don’t understand it. I can’t grasp their words. Had I left work early, I might not be alive anymore.

We sit down in the living room and turn on the TV. It’s true. I can hear what the news anchors say, but I don’t understand it. I can’t grasp their words. Had I left work early, I might not be alive anymore.

All I feel is pure horror. Feeling and knowing that there are people being hurt or even killed instills nothing but deep sadness in me. It’s paralysing. The alarm on the street brings me back to reality. I feel the need to call my parents, my friends, everyone. While I try calming my father over the phone, I log in to Facebook: Safety Check pops up. "Are you anywhere near the affected area?" the Facebook app asks, I tick the box, "Yes, please notify my friends."

I feel horrible. Safety Check has made it to Munich. I first read about it during the earthquake in Nepal, then right after the Paris attacks, then Brussels, Nice...and now, Munich.
There are three of us, but not a single word is spoken. The only sound we hear is a helicopter circling above the city. Munich police go on Facebook and Twitter, asking people to stay out of the streets, away from public places. They tell people not to leave their homes and to stay safe.

We can see some of the police action from our window. The police are armed, all of them wearing bulletproof vests. We still see some people on the streets, even though media reports that the perpetrators haven’t been captured. There are rumours that more gunfire has broken out throughout the city — near Isartor, among others — which is about 200 metres away from the place we’re trying to stay safe in. Right in front of my favourite cinema, to be exact. A few minutes later, trusted media confirm that the news of more gunfire is, in fact, false.

Even though it’s way too early to say where this horror will lead to, how it will end, or what goes on in the mind of someone willing to commit murder, there is one thing I can certainly say: Yes, I am afraid of the future, but I refuse to be stripped of my right to freedom. I will not give in or, worse, accept that I have to change my life. I will enjoy Munich as much as ever, I will continue to meet my friends, and sit by the Isar and go to concerts at Zenith. I will not let the fear of terror win.