How One Woman Kept Hostages Alive at Trader Joe’s

Stories of resilience even in the most difficult of circumstances.

MaryLinda Moss and Lynne Westafer hug at a memorial outside the Trader Joe's in Silver Lake, where they were held hostage during a standoff in July.Allen J. Schaben/Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

“There’s always hope.” That’s what MaryLinda Moss told the gunman who had taken her and a dozen others hostage at a Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles, California. Moss then put her hand on his heart. She told him he was a good person.

The 55-year-old Moss, an artist who exudes calm from years of trauma therapy and healing work, ended up helping negotiate an end to the crisis.

She remained calm even as her husband texted her, worried.

“It’s complicated,” she texted back. She reassured him she was okay, and wrote, “I can’t text anymore. We are negotiating.”

“Her goal was to get everyone out safely without further bloodshed,” columnist Robin Abcarian, who wrote about Moss for the Los Angeles Times, told me via email.

Moss had gained the gunman’s trust by bandaging his wounded arm. She helped mediate calls with police in order to calm the gunman, who wanted to get out alive. And, calmly—without a weapon—Moss did manage to get them out alive.

Looking for stories of justice prevailing, or of people who think of others? Read on! Recharge is a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. You can sign up at the bottom of the story.

  • A moment of connection. Few people understand 17-year-old Jack Ryan Edwards, says his dad. But supermarket clerk Jordan Taylor did.

    Taylor let the autistic teen, who was fascinated with orange juice, help him stock the juice cooler one bottle at a time, even though it took longer that way. The effort was captured in a video that went viral—and led to a part-time job offer for Edwards and a crowd-sourced scholarship fund for Taylor.

    “What I’ve learned is our world doesn’t accept autistic kids. It’s impossible for those kids to enter our world,” said Edwards’ father, Sid. “We spend so much time working on that, but this man figured it out in eight seconds: He went into Jack Ryan’s world.”

    The store clerk, interviewed by the local TV station, fought back tears as he tried to explain why he helped. “I never pictured all this would happen. I was just me being me,” he said. “I just wanted to help somebody else out.”

    Reader Rick Taylor suggested this story—thanks, Rick! (Washington Post)

  • A full ride at just the right time. Seth Owen thought he’d lost his college dreams. He had been accepted to Georgetown University but learned that his financial aid package had been based on his family contributing $20,000 to annual expenses. His parents, however, had driven him out of their home after finding out he was gay.

    After Georgetown initially refused to adjust his financial aid award, Owen’s teacher and friends raised $130,000 to help pay for his schooling. But last week, the university changed its offer to a full scholarship, allowing Owen to attend the university at almost no cost.

    Owen is now considering donating a portion of the money towards creating a scholarship fund for LBGTQ students who find themselves in a similar situation. (NBC)

  • Others may lose hope, but…Glady Cañas Aguilar tells migrants waiting at the border between Texas and Mexico, “If you’ve made it this far, it’s worth staying until you can ask for asylum.”

    Cañas Aguilar and volunteers bring food, water, ice, and medicine to those waiting to enter the US—some of whom are fleeing death threats from gangs or abusive spouses back home. They also talk to the migrants and provide moral support. Sometimes words, or a comforting ear or shoulder, can be the most important medicine against indifference or insults.

    “By listening and chatting, they feel as if they’re in their homes,” she says.

    Cañas Aguilar shows, as writer Noah Lanard puts it, that “compassion can be a form of resistance.” (Mother Jones)

  • Investing in public schools. The best basketball player of his generation wants to provide quality schools and higher education to kids in his hometown.

    LeBron James’s “I Promise” school opened last week in Akron, Ohio, with 240 students in third and fourth grade. The school will expand to include grades one through eight by 2022. Students receive free breakfast and lunch as well as paid tuition to the University of Akron.

    James, who missed 83 days during his fourth grade year, called the opening “one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life.” He has gotten support for his school from the Obamas, from Michael Jordan, and from Melania Trump—despite President Trump’s recent spat with the basketball star. (CNN)

Have a Recharge story of your own or an idea to make this column better? Fill out this form or send me a note to me at Have a great week ahead and make sure to sign up for the newsletter below.

More MotherJones reporting on Recharge


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend