ORLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) – Just days after a gunman was shot to death by a customer-turned-hero, an Orland Park tanning salon is stepping up security. And, as CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole reports, employees are finding security in each other, too.
At L.A. Tan, they are open again for business, though at times they need to hug each other just to get by.
More security cameras are also being added to the system that captured their dark hour: the robbery attempt that started with a bound coworker and ended when a customer wrestled a gun away from the assailant — shooting him dead.
“It’s almost not real. I’m still kind of waiting to wake up from this nightmare that all of us are having,” said L.A. Tan manager Nichole Meyers.
“Mentally, it’s a little hard for all of us to cope,” said L.A. Tan assistant manager Danielle McKeown.
The young women who work here say they are a family, and seeing their co-worker’s life in jeopardy is paralyzing.
“Watching the video was very hard, probably one of the most difficult things I have had to do” Meyers said. “I wasn’t here for her. There was nothing that I could do.”
But the images of their friend with the presence of mind to dial 911 when the gunman was distracted are helping them all heal.
“It is absolutely unreal how strong she has been through all this,” McKeown said. “She has been our support system as well.”
“There was a point in time when she saw an opportunity and she took it, and we could not be prouder,” said Meyers.
Jan Toranzo is among the regular customers who have reached out to the staff with cards, prayers and small gifts to help.
“I love these girls. They are like my kids,” Toranzo said. “They say they’re OK, but they’re not really OK. It’s going to take everybody a while to be OK.”
When asked what the love shown by the customers means to her, McKeown said, “It shows that we are actually here for a purpose, that we’re just not tanning salon girls, that we are a part of their family as well as they’re a part of ours.”
“We have to keep supporting each other, the only way that we’re gonna get through this,” said Meyers.
The staff at L.A. Tan says they have been talking a lot to each other. It’s also helping them heal. They continue to have praise for Jason McDaniel, the customer who saved the day.
As for the would-be robber, Gary Amaya, though there are many indications he was also the “honeybee killer”, officials have yet to make that declaration. They are expected to give some sort of update on the case on Thursday.