Katie Savage filed a lawsuit against her local mall because of its lack of an evacuation plan for people with disabilities. On Sept. 3, 2002, while the nation was on alert for the possibility of another September terrorist attack, the fire alarm sounded at the City Place Mall in Silver Spring, MD., and everyone in the mall was told to evacuate.

“Everyone was running, panic everywhere, people screaming that there was a bomb, a terrorist in the mall,” says Savage. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘How am I going to get out of here?'” The exit doors were locked, all elevators and escalators shut off. Along with a few others who can’t use stairs, she watched shoppers fleeing up the steps until the evacuation was over. No one ever came to assist her.

Fortunately, there was no emergency — the panic was caused by a patron of Gold’s Gym who pulled the fire alarm.

Savage, 53, filed the lawsuit with help from the Disability Rights Council in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26. “I just want these malls to comprehend the seriousness of what’s happening in the world and sensitize their employees,” says Savage.