Sometime in 1979 (I actually forget exactly when), my ex-wife and I were at LAX picking up her sister and brother in law from a flight from Israel. I seem to recall that what is now the international terminal was under construction, so we met them at the baggage claim around where Terminal 3 is today.
While we were standing at baggage claim, I – we all – heard shots. I looked through the large plate-glass window, and on the other side I saw a woman holding what seemed to be an enormous handgun, shooting at people.
We – everyone – ran and hid. I pushed my then wife under a bench, and then I slid in beside her. Within a few seconds, though, my military training kicked in. I was just three years out of the Marines, and I distinctly remember thinking, “I am not going to get shot and killed here, hiding, lying down.” I decided to fight. I got up and went toward the sound of the gunfire.
I remember thinking the moment I got up that the sandals I was wearing were noisy. They flapped. I kicked them off and snuck toward the plate-glass window. (I have rarely worn sandals since).
I saw the woman stop shooting. I saw one wounded person through the glass; the rest had fled the hall. I then saw the woman walking out from the terminal to the sidewalk with gun in hand, make a right and head our way. I yelled at everyone who was hiding in the baggage claim area to get out quick. People seemed frozen in place. I yelled again for everyone to get out.
I hid on the side of the entrance to the baggage claim with my back to the narrow wall holding the plate glass, next to the sidewalk, determined to attack her when she turned the corner. A young Marine in uniform was tentatively approaching me from the side. I looked at the insignia on his upper sleeve, and said “Lance Corporal, when she turns this corner, you and I are going to take her down.”
Maybe when he saw me go toward the window it inspired him to join me. Not enough. I am sad to say that he thought for a brief second, then ran. I remember feeling alone.
She indeed came down the sidewalk and turned the corner. She was about my height (5’9”), or even taller. A big, heavy woman. She turned and faced me and still had the handgun in her hand right hand, but it was not (yet) pointed at me. I found myself staring into her eyes for what was probably a fraction of a second but seemed much longer. The white of her eyes (the sclera, to use the right word) were yellow. I saw what I could only describe as craziness. I felt mesmerized, swallowed up. Again, I think my military training kicked in, and I forced myself to into action.
I lunged at her before she could raise her gun. A man nearby, short but stocky, sprang up from his hiding place under some luggage right after I engaged her, bashing her with a suitcase. He and I got her down and pinned her. I seem to recall that I had her torso and he had her hands. When she slammed into the sidewalk, the gun spun out of her hand.
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