"All I heard was the word 'gun' and knew I had to get out of there," says one shopper who was at Orlando's Florida Mall Thursday. "I left [my mom] a voicemail that there was someone shooting in the mall and that I was OK," says another. Patrons ran from the mall, leaving belongings behind, and at least nine were injured in the chaos ("mostly falls, scrapes, and twisted knees," says a fire department spokesperson). Reports of an active shooting at the mall hit Twitter. Except the "gunshots" people heard were not gunshots at all, but balloons popping, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
An announcement was made over the speaker system—but some patrons tell WESH they never heard it—warning that, as part of an industry-standard test during an inspection for a restaurant's grand opening, six big balloons would be popped and then a fire alarm would go off. When patrons heard the balloons popping and the ensuing alarm, panic ensued; other people panicking made the initial panic worse, and some ended up falling or getting trampled. "It was really scary," says one patron who notes that mall workers were urging them to get outside quickly. First responders were dispatched to the scene to find, thankfully, no gunman. (Read more strange stuff stories.)