Well, That Was Terrifying
Last Updated on May 23, 2023
Last weekend was one for the books, but not in a good way. It was girls’ night out and Cinco de Mayo, so what better way to celebrate than driving down to Chicago for dinner at La Luna? We met at my friend’s new place in Pilsen and walked over to Racine and 18th. The energy was lively. Latin music bumping from an outdoor margarita bar, and people were hanging out, enjoying the warm weather.
We walked past a small group of guys who were like, “Hey, Mamacitas! Happy Cinco de Mayo!” – the innocent cat call was slightly adorable and gave this middle age mom from the suburbs a giggle.
La Luna had a DJ to help celebrate the weekend — we wanted to chat and asked to be seated outside. It was a no-go. The place was packed. We had a fabulous window seat, and cold beverages were coming. My girlfriends ordered a pitcher of watermelon margaritas, but I went with rum. Since my break up in college, tequila and I don’t mix. I went with the Un Poco Coco — sweet baby Jesus; it was heavenly. A concoction of blanco and aged rum, crema de coco, pineapple, and lime served frozen.
We ordered homemade guacamole (topped with pomegranate seeds) and the Aguachile Negro — a ceviche with shrimp, avocado, onion, serrano, tomatoes, soy sauce, and, I think, squid ink because the sauce was pitch black. Hands down the best Mexican food I’ve had, with the perfect amount of spice.
Soon our entrees arrived, and I was having this conversation in my head, “Man, The Boy would love this place. I wonder if he’d venture down to Pilsen with me. We could probably bring the kids. I know it can get a bit shooty in this neighborhood, but it’s 6 pm, and besides, I feel completely safe.”
POP POP POP POP POP POP — my brain registered it as fireworks off in the distance. It wasn’t loud, but the DJ was blaring inside the restaurant.
Within seconds a wave of people was charging the restaurant. My brain had still not registered what was transpiring. This probably happened within seconds, but everything was in slow motion.
The people sitting at the tables outside began yelling, “It’s a shooting!” I was facing the sidewalk in front of floor-to-ceiling windows. I look to my right, and the table beside me is hitting the floor. I pushed my chair out and curled up in the fetal position on the ground. In my head, I’m wondering, am I overreacting? Is everyone in the restaurant on the ground? Are we really doing this? Was that pop pop pop a gun? Everyone interviewed on the news always says it sounded like fireworks. That is spot on.
I looked at the door, which was still wide open, and told myself, Kyla, you need to determine if this is a mass shooting or a drive-by. I popped my head up for a second but thought, dude, keep your head down. If you’re getting shot tonight, best not to get shot in the head. That will get you killed. Then I thought, do I cover my head like a tornado drill? Ya, it probably doesn’t matter because my arm or hand won’t stop a bullet. Just put your stupid head down you idiot.
Oddly, I had no thoughts of my kiddos or my husband. I was merely in survival mode, trying to grasp the situation. There were 5-6 people in front of me also lying on the ground, so hopefully, if this were a mass shooting, they’d get it before me. God, what a horrible thought! Slowly, a few people stood up. Was it safe? The music was still blaring, but I didn’t hear any more pop pop pops. Was it over? I watched the others standing, and they weren’t getting shot at, so I followed suit.
One of my girlfriends is a doctor. She was still sitting in the window, watching everything unfold, and about to run over to offer medical help, but the group of men across the street flagged down a police car driving through the intersection. We don’t know if the cops were coming because they heard gunfire or if it was the right place right time.
Across the street, I saw one man sitting on a bench. His jeans were soaked in blood from the waist down. I couldn’t help but watch. Someone, maybe the police, removed his pants to control the bleeding, and thankfully, the ambulance and fire truck arrived shortly after, blocking my view. Was he screaming or crying? I could not hear him. Like clockwork, the crime tape went up, and the intersection filled with cop cars. It was all very methodical—just another day for CPD.
The restaurant chatter began to sink in, and we overheard it was either a drive-by or someone on foot, and that person had shot two men across the street from me while I was eating flautas. What the actual fuck just happened?
My girlfriends and I all had different reactions. One was visibly upset and wanted to leave immediately, but we convinced her to stay. With the large police presence, the restaurant was probably the safest place. Hopefully, that was the right decision. We tried to help her breathe. My girlfriend, who lived in the city, was completely unphased. Did she even lay on the ground? I don’t think she did. I was…stunned? I think that is the best description. I think I still am.
I immediately texted The Boy to tell him I was okay. It was not like he would immediately know I was across the street from a drive-by shooting, but it seemed the right thing to do. To make sure he believed me, I sent pictures. It was a weird thing to do, but documenting the situation seemed appropriate at the time.
Our server stopped by to ask if we were okay and did we wanted to cash out or order another beverage. He followed that with a nervous laugh. The couple seated outside was trying to leave. The mom held her little girl at a table inside while the dad stood outside bravely by his table, waiting to pay his bill. The table behind us bolted. The DJ was still blaring his music, and someone finally told the staff to cut it. I didn’t know what to do, so I finished my meal.
The Boy and I watch the news every night and are constantly reminded of the violence in Chicago. When it happens in Wicker Park or Lakeview, it’s shocking. And yes, I’ve had moments of panic in the city, but I’ve never thought to myself, holy crap, I could get shot.
For years I worked in Chicago — the Loop, River North, and the West Loop when it was a shit hole before it became what Restaurant Row is today. After work deadlines were made, I walked at night to the train station before Ubers existed. You have to be aware of your surroundings because stupid people win stupid prizes. My head was on a swivel while walking alone at night, and when I could, I walked with a buddy or texted The Boy when I left work and again when I was finally seated on my train.
When the police presence declined, we walked back to my girlfriend’s house. Trying to get an Uber in the middle of a crime scene didn’t seem like the right decision. Block after block, we talked about work, kids, and what was happening tomorrow—a soccer game, house cleaning, yoga, and the usual chit-chat.
Staying in Pilsen had us feeling jumpy, but we didn’t want to call it a night, so we drove to one of my girlfriend’s home in Oak Park and sat on her front porch. Her husband drove out to buy us alcohol because a glass of wine felt necessary. It was still light out, and neighborhood kids were outside playing hide-and-go-seek. Sometimes one would let out a shriek, and I’d flashback to lying on the restaurant floor. A screendoor slammed shut, and for a split second, I held myself back from wanting to lay flat on the floor.
As we sat there, silently processing the evening, one of us would bring up the night’s events. Did anyone scream? Was it quiet? We’d discuss the details and what-ifs, and then the conversation would slowly move on to prom, college, mental health, high school, elementary school, and math tutoring, but it would always come back to the shooting.
We sat on the porch googling Pilsen shooting today, but nothing was published online. Not shocking, but we wondered if the men were okay. At least one was taken away on a stretcher in the ambulance. Did he survive? Was it one of the men that chatted us up when we walked by? They were not causing trouble. They were sitting outside enjoying a beer and the atmosphere.
A police officer or firefighter was hosing off the truck where the men were shot. Was he hosing off blood or gasoline? Where was the second man who was shot? Did you see him? I didn’t see him. Was he on the ground? Was he by the truck? Was the person who fired the gun on foot? He had to be because none of us heard a car speed away. Or maybe it was just too loud in the restaurant to hear the car?
Yesterday my friend Gunner and Lux posted this on Instagram, and because it resonated with me, I shared my restaurant story in the comments. I think I need to keep regurgitating it to process my feelings—hence this post. I questioned how we’ve become desensitized to gun violence. Why are we normalizing it?
A woman (@itsme_mommio) replied to my comment, “If you think stricter gun laws are going to stop shootings from happening in Chiraq, you’re delusional. Gangsters have been proving that fact in that city for decades.”
Ok, when you call Chicago “that city” or Chiraq, and reference gun reform and gangsters in the same sentence, I know you’re not from around here, but rather reiterating what you’ve heard on the news, but I’ll bite. Side note, did you know that Forbes recently ranked the most dangerous cities in America, and surprisingly Chicago did NOT make the top 15 cities list? Ya, gun violence is wreaking havoc all over our country.
There was nothing in my comment about gun reform. Rather, I asked how do you sit across the street from a shooting and 10 minutes later, be asked if you want another cocktail while finishing your tacos? I’m struggling to understand how we’ve become unphased by gun violence in society.
After the July 4th shooting in Highland Park, IL, I wrote a post similar to this and listed off the 8 towns where mass shootings had taken place that same day. EIGHT MASS SHOOTINGS IN ONE DAY! Common sense says we have a problem here, and with guns dividing us as a country, we are not focused on fixing the problem. We’re just fighting amongst ourselves with no resolution in sight.
Would it be so bad to have more control over weapons that can shoot multiple rounds of ammunition in seconds? If you modify that particular gun, it can shoot hundreds of rounds in 1 minute. When a bullet from an AR-15 enters the body, it’s designed to tumble or change direction and cause as much damage as possible. That gun is a war weapon, not a deer-hunting gun. When our Constitution was written, a weapon like that was unfathomable. Full transparency, this gun is in my home. It gets used once, maybe twice a year, at a gun range because that is the only place to shoot it.
Now, I highly doubt an AR-15 was used in the shooting outside La Luna, and Chicago has a whole tangled web of crime issues that may never be solved. So don’t come at me in the comments. Between the corruption in Illinois’ local and state government, our judicial system, bribery scandals, social economics, and gangs—where does one even begin? My message to mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is godspeed, sir. You are getting served up a shit sandwich that has taken decades to create.
And you’re right @itsme_mommio, stricter gun laws in Illinois won’t fix “Chiraq,” especially when a hop, skip, and a state away, I can go to the local gun show or flea market at a fairgrounds in Wisconsin or Indiana, write a check, and walk out with an arsenal. Less than half the guns used in Illinois crimes come from Illinois.
Would it be so bad not to be able to order ammunition online and have it delivered to my doorstep without even signing for it? God forbid I must drive to Farm and Fleet to buy bullets in person. Would limiting the amount of ammunition I can buy help the situation? Would it be so bad to have mental health check-ins every few years to maintain your gun license? How about mandatory training for anyone wanting to own a gun? Do you know how many times I’ve stood at the gun counter at Cabelas only to watch some moron request to see a Glock (because that is what he saw in the movies), point the barrel at himself, and say does this make me look badass? Would it be so bad to force that moron to purchase a gun safe with the purchase of his shiny new gun?
The gun owners I know are responsible, but it only takes one bad apple to mess up the system. When someone acts stupid, rules and regulations are usually implemented to control the small band of idiots, even when it inconveniences the rest of us. This includes alcohol, weed, cars, seatbelts, and speed limits. Potentially harmful things are controlled because of those who act irresponsibly.
In my opinion, when it comes to guns, the rules and regulations should be made on the federal level. One government. One set of rules. Sadly, our country’s politicians are driven by re-election, money, and power. Instead of listening to common sense, they punt gun laws to the individual states. If a state manages to pass a law, a judge steps in to revoke it. Round and round, we go wasting tax dollars and getting nowhere. What has transpired over the last few months in Illinois on both sides is petty high school BS followed by gloating.
Firearms recently became the number one cause of death for children and teens in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and those caused by other injuries. My kids have active shooter drills like we had tornado and fire drills in school. They know if a situation arises while they are in the bathroom, they need to stand on the toilet so a shooter doesn’t see their feet. Kindergartners do these drills. Common sense says that’s a problem.
To anyone reading this thinking, ban all guns — no, that is not the answer. Growing up in rural Wisconsin and being married to an avid hunter, I understand why some folks choose to own guns. In some situations, hunting for food may be the only way a family eats, But we also can’t have a free for all stating, guns for everyone. There needs to be some give and take for the greater good of our country. United, we stand. Divided, we fall.
Whenever I talk about guns with the opposing side, I’m reminded of a conversation with The Boy’s uncle. He lives in Germany. We visited during the summer, and I asked, “Why is there no air conditioning over here?” He said, “We don’t need air conditioning to survive.” I said, “OMG, I could not live without my AC! I’d die!” He chuckled and responded in his thick German accent, “You Americans. You love your comfort.”
Let that statement sink in for a moment.
Read More Personal Musings By Kyla
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My brutally honest review of my membership application at the Biltmore Country Club.
The day my sister died — a post I should probably make private but haven’t yet.
An open letter to Pinterest and Ben Silbermann and learn how to remove the Pinterest white dots on images.
I took the kids on a spring break adventure into Chicago.
Sharing my first mammogram experience and why you have nothing to fear.
All the Things I’d Tell My Younger Self if I could travel back in time.
We’ve come a long way. Looking back three years ago to the crazy things we did during Covid lockdown.
Calypso in the Country
Wow, what a story! Thankfully, you’re okay! Yes, it is disturbing how normal these shootings have become in this country. I’m not sure what it will take to stop this from happening…but something HAS to be done! Lately, whenever I go anywhere, I think to myself – what would I do if there was a shooting? I won’t even go to crowded events like concerts anymore. It’s really an awful way to live…
Kyla HerbesCalypso in the Country
Thanks for reading Shelley. It’s absolutely sad and awful that we have to think of a contingency plan in case of a shooting.
I’m so glad you’re safe. Thanks for writing about your experience. Sadly, I don’t see anything changing until gun violence starts affecting the folks that are charge of the laws.
Gun violence won’t change until there is accountability for unlawful behavior……..justice system has been compromised and law enforcement resources have been cut……..resulting in Wild West in the urban streets. We don’t need more gun control laws on the books…………..because thugs and criminals don’t follow laws.
Please explain Andrew Lester, age 85, shooting 16 year old Ralph Yarl for knocking on on the wrong door to pick up his brothers. Is that 85 year old man a thug or is he mentally unhinged?
Kaylin Gillis, age 20, accidentally drove into the driveway of Kevin Monahan in the town of Hebron in New York state. He opened fire on the vehicle, killing her.
Robert Singletary fired a gun at 6 year old Kinsley White and her father when the basketball she was playing with rolled into his yard.
Or the two cheerleaders – wearing their cheer uniforms- shot in a grocery store parking lot for mistaking the car for their friend’s vehicle?
These are just a small handful of shootings that happened last month. We are living amongst angry, mentally unstable, frightened, racist people bearing arms and shooting innocent people. Common sense says that is not okay.
Ice Cream & Tequila
I follow March Fourth on IG. They offer phone numbers for all house reps & senators, scripts for leaving messages, and other tips on gun legislation. S25 is the assault weapons ban, and 2 out of 3 Americans want gun legislation. This bill is based on common sense gun reform. Please consider following March Fourth and calling your representatives.
Kyla HerbesIce Cream & Tequila
Thank you!!!! I’m on my way over to find them now!!!!!
So, I worked at Juarez in Pilsen for 8 years. I loved it there, the school is amazing, the teachers and admin are fantastic, but I can definitely tell you some stories about the neighborhood. Almost all of the kids raised in that neighborhood can tell you first hand accounts of experiences exactly like what you describe here. It’s sad. When the shooting occurred there last year, I immediately reached out to a friend that still teaches there. She was ok, but unfortunately one of the dead was a student of hers.
With the rise of gun violence, teachers now have to take specialized training called ALICE which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. It’s an insane thing to process, especially having kids of my own. I try not to, but I sometimes wonder if their teachers are taking the training seriously and will know what to do in the event of a shooter. I often wonder what I would do to keep my students safe. Thoughts can get really dark, really fast.
After the recent mall shooting, Tilly asked me if I would be offended if when she grows up, she moves out of the United States because here doesn’t feel safe to her any more. It’s a sad thing to think about for a 13 year old. We had to have a real conversation about the fact that at some point, everyone in our little family is going to experience gun violence in some form. It’s terrifying.
GOP lawmakers keep yammering on about mental health, mental health, mental health. But they are only talking about it from the perspective of the gunman. What made them snap and want to murder people? What about the bystanders? What about the nightmares you might have after experiencing something that intense, only to be asked 10 minutes later if you want a refresher on your drink?
Anyone member of congress who takes money from any sort of gun lobbyist needs to be voted out of office ASAP. That is the only way anything will ever change. Thank you for writing about this again. I am very happy that you are okay.
Kyla HerbesSandee Harned
Juarez just had a mass shooting not too long ago. It’s really sad what these kids and teachers are having to endure. It shouldn’t be like this.
Sandee HarnedSandee Harned
December, not long before Christmas. Two students died.
Way down south
What is going to stop this? When will we all rise up together and demand meaningful action? When babies in neonatal units are mowed down? I don’t think showing photos of the AR-15 aftermath will do anything, people in this country are so inured to violence (look at how popular the John Wick movies are). Will it take a preponderance of the population being personally affected by gun violence? Why is the country being held hostage by knee-jerk reactors who think everyone is trying to take away their guns?
I also follow March Fourth and made calls re @-25 banning assault weapons last week. – @rosabeltrandesign has a bio-link to a Google doc of senators to call. Gun violence is the leading cause of pediatric death and yet the “pro life” folks refuse to do ANYTHING to stop it – no words for the hypocrisy.
Thank you Kyla for sharing your traumatic experience. Talk about it as much as you can as that is part of a processing/healing tool. I grew up in Chicago suburbs and lived 5 blocks from Water Tower Place in the late 70’s and 80’s as a newlywed. My heart breaks at all of the lives traumatized or lost just going about their day due to dark souled people with guns.
Common sense gun laws are NECESSARY right along with punishment for those who
terrorize our communities! I just moved back to the Midwest from decades living in California, where I had a situation where I had to “hit the deck”…surreal. So happy you are safe!
Hoping for common sense laws and yep, good ole civility and personal responsibility to be modeled in homes and schools. May we fight against becoming anesthetized to humans hurting or killing other humans.