By now you have heard about the tragic Omaha mall shooting that left nine, including shooter Robbie Hawkins, dead yesterday afternoon from a news source other than us. "Now I'll be famous," he said in a suicide note, echoing sentiments once made by Carrie Bradshaw to Mr. Big. The attack occurred an hour after President Bush left Omaha, but because we are girls who know that these types of angry young mass murderers generally plan these things out entirely too far in advance to put much thought into planning for such dignitaries, we were mostly interested in the retail store he chose as the scene of his crime: Von Maur. Von Maur turns out to be part of a dying breed of retail chain, the family-run, Midwest-based service-oriented piano-serenaded department store. Once upon a time, the department store was a universally recognized symbol of the affirming power of consumerism; the sort of well-lit, well-stocked, well-maintained place it first dawned on you that maybe actually it was more fun to give than receive. Von Maur has a policy of holding no sales, and charging no interest for its credit cards.

Department stores have been steadily sliding into dank, irrelevant obscurity along with many of their contemporaries: network television, newspapers, inner suburbs, the middle class; and the rise of exurban discounters and higher-end specialty stores like Coach and Abercrombie & Fitch and Pottery Barn. (Incidentally, Pottery Barn Kids was the scene of the last big mall shooting, in Salt Lake City, Utah earlier this year.)

What is the significance of all this? I don't know. It's sad, is all; the more of these kids come along the less you know what to do about it. For every seriously deranged Virginia Tech shooter, there's a kid who maybe, in a different time, under different circumstances, could have reached out to another kid like him in a way that was positive, like the Red Lake Indian reservation shooter. I vaguely remember that time; it was back when the only way to rise above mindless conformity was to become famous; it was back when I still enjoyed Christmas.

Troubled Teen Wanted To Die With Notoriety [Omaha World Herald]