The Draw Muhammad Exhibition at the Curtis Culwell Center was well-attended and represented by various media organizations.
As part of the press corps, I was part of this private, “invitation only” event. Arriving at the facility, I presented my parking pass to one of the many officers blocking the entrance to the area with his vehicle. After being directed to the metal detector I walked through the device. It alarmed and I was directed to an officer who instructed me to raise my arms. I was checked anterior, posterior, and to the sides. On entering the event, additional security personnel were present.
The reporter from the Daily Beast walked through the metal detector after me and we struck up a conversation. Individuals representing quite a few media organizations were present and it was enjoyable to talk about the tools of our trade, our anticipation to get within arms’ length of Geert Wilders, Pamela Geller, and Robert Spencer – and to share our thoughts regarding how we would angle the story.
After the event, a few individuals had made their way to the parking lot. There was suddenly an influx of attendees back into the conference room. Words were flying that an officer was down, suspects had been shot, and we were under attack. A police officer jumped to the stage and informed us that a police officer had been shot, suspects had been shot, and that we would immediately move to a hardened, secure area. Asked to leave immediately, many individuals left items in the conference area. Flanked by officers on every side, we were move rapidly to the new location.
Thank God for technology! All of us were rapidly texting and calling individuals and informing them of the breaking news. I was fortunate to connect with a member of a power blogging group and this group of seasoned bloggers were the first to break the news to the world of a terror attack in Garland, Texas.
One man asked, “Do we know if it was Muslims?” I responded, “Well, do you think it was a couple of nuns?”
Eventually, the predictable happened. An individual led the group in singing “God Bless America” and a woman in the group waved a rather large American flag. I moved out of range of all cameras. The group was definitely singing in two different keys, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would cart along Old Glory for our rapid departure from the event.
There were features related to security which I recognized because of my prior military service. The configuration, layers, and interface of security were extremely strong. But in the name of prudence, I prefer not to write about this aspect of what occurred that evening. But I must say that I was quite impressed with the visible aspects of security.
We were later moved to a secondary secure location so that the bomb disposal unit could deploy the robotics to secure the area and dispose of any IED’s. There had been a strong concern early on about such things because the assailants wore backpacks along with their body armour. Our mode of transport was the lowly yellow school bus. But we were convoyed in a manner which gave a nod of cognizance to the issue of a second wave attack.
Our secondary location was also heavily secured. Irving SWAT was on site to provide us with protection.
We were asked not to release our location onto Twitter platforms or Facebook for the sake of security.
As we awaited the arrival of the FBI JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) we were provided with Gatorade. Most of us had not eaten dinner and fatigue and hunger was my biggest issue.
After the arrival of the FBI, forms were given to each of us to give an Affadavit of the event. As the Curtis Culwell Center was an active crime scene we could not retrieve our vehicles. Arrangements were made for those who needed hotels and the remainder of us lined up for cab service. I shared a cab with the official photographer for the event and we had a pleasant, but albeit, long commute back to our respective homes.
Give me liberty or give me death.