I went to the movies two weeks ago, and right before the previews, the theater's management reminded us in an on-screen PSA that our safety was very important to them.
'Our safety?' I thought. Why are they telling us that? We're watching a movie, not jumping out of airplanes, what could happ- ... oh.
The theater was packed, so my friend and I were sitting in the second row from the screen, the only empty row in the theater.
Never miss a local story.
Somehow and surprisingly, there were no exits near us. In fact, the only exit was the entrance.
Way in the other direction.
I am not one to panic, but I had a moment.
It's like we're in a shoebox.
And, oh terrific, there's a man sitting by himself in front of us. In the first row!
He was here before us, which means he totally chose that. Who chooses the first row? Maniacs. Maniacs do ... and people with vision problems, of course. God bless them.
The man was eating a sub that I had to assume was "no meat and all the onions you have in this deli," because that is what he and the entire theater smelled like.
If this theater is allowing undeniable "outside food" to enter, what else are they letting in? Could "eat an onion sub and shoot up a theater" be someone's M.O.? Could this be a detail that will forever be noted in stories about what might happen next here?
"Mr. X enjoyed a footlong filled with 22 whole onions before the movie started. When he finished his 'sandwich,' he ..."
More importantly, would he start with the second row or would I have time to kill him with my only weapon, which is insults about his meal choice?
Later, my friend and I talked about whether this is the world we live in now. A few months ago, I would've shrugged off the man with the onion sub. Now, I wondered about him.
Is this year the tipping point for the United States, when we go from living with no thought of being a victim of a mass shooting to actively worrying about it or altering our daily behavior because of the threat, no matter how unlikely an attack might be?
It's a question I again considered Wednesday at the Bluffton Police Department, where I attended the House of Worship Security Training session that international security expert and Bluffton resident Jim McGuffey gave for about 50 area church leaders and neighboring law enforcement officers.
Church security has long been one of McGuffey's specialties.
The free three-hour session was hosted by the police department and the American Society for Industrial Security International Savannah Low Country Chapter. The purpose was to teach local churches the importance of having a security plan -- but not just for an active shooter.
"Things have changed a lot," McGuffey said. "When evil walks in, you want to be prepared.
He is not an alarmist, though, and his message was clear: "You have a better chance at winning the lottery than being the victim of a church shooting."
At that, I pictured all 50 of us attending a three-hour "How to spend your future lottery winnings" workshop and truly understood McGuffey's point.
"When there's a horriffic event, everyone wants to form a security team," he said. "But that's a knee-jerk reaction. Every church should have a security team ... but for the right reasons."
McGuffey wants church leaders to sit down and talk to each other. To assess their security risks and take note of their assets. To implement a plan. Then to be consistent about enforcing it.
There are a number of very practical realities for churches to prepare for -- for instance, burglary and theft are the biggest threats churches face. And there are computer crimes and assaults and sex abuse and fires and medical emergencies to think about. Then there's vandalism. Are the church's financial safeguards sound? Are volunteers vetted? Is the nursery a mess of exposed wires and hazardous liquids? Is the parking lot well lit? If someone has to call 911, will they know the address? WHO HAS THE KEYS?
There is so much to consider.
But this is South Carolina, and just six months ago a monster showed us that nothing is sacred. So the shooting in Charleston was still on people's minds Wednesday -- no matter how ridiculous attending a "future lottery winnings" workshop might seem.
Places of worship -- where people go to reflect on life, express gratitude, share love, experience community and spread kindness -- should be safe zones, where people can practice their faith without fear.
And they are. They still are.
But one might not be, though. Or maybe it's two. Or three. I don't know. I can't predict mass shootings. I can't predict attacks. The threat is small.
But it is real. And it is downright scary.
"The result could be catastrophic," Hilton Head Island resident Jack Loda, a member of All Saints Episcopal Church, said of a possible shooter in a church. "They can do a lot of damage in no time. The term 'shooting fish in a barrel' comes to mind."
A number of leaders from Campbell AME Church in Bluffton attended the security workshop, and Quenten Witter, a church member who helps with the church's security, said the response to the Charleston shootings has necessitated a major culture shift at the church.
Witter recently oversaw the installation of a security system, the first Campbell has ever had. Not everyone is happy with it, though.
"A lot of people aren't worried about a shooting," he said. "They grew up here leaving their doors unlocked. Their cars unlocked. Now it's like 'the Big Man' is watching."
I get that. The presence of a camera means that things are different. That the things people believed about life and each other are no longer true.
Witter and I chatted about how the Charleston shooter was caught for one reason and one reason only: We knew what he looked like. The monster was caught on Emanuel AME's camera.
"They only had one camera too," he said.