It’s only been 2 weeks and the news cycle has already moved on. Well, they did that last week actually, but the King Soopers memorial is still there in front of the store. The flowers are wilting, the signs have been rained and snowed on, and yet there are new offerings to remember those who lost their lives on March 22.
I have taken to walking or biking down about once every other day to continue to pay my respects, to connect with my community. It feels therapeutic and like the bare minimum that I can do for those neighbors who were senselessly taken from us. Many have called this a tragedy, but it’s not. It’s criminal. A tragedy is an earthquake or an accident. This. This is entirely preventable. No one needs an assault weapon; a weapon of war whose sole purpose is to kill as many humans as quickly as possible whether you’re a good marksman or not. The assault rifle is the weapon of the coward (yes, I realize my anger is leaking out amidst the pain). No one needs these weapons. But, yes, we do need better mental health care. I remember when I was 20, my dad got laid off from Central State Hospital where he worked as a social worker in the addictions group. He worked with some pretty tough individuals – they had the choice to either see my dad or go to jail. They closed Central State that year and I’m now realizing this was likely related to the cut in mental health resources during the Reagan era. Now that’s a tragedy.
The range of emotions that I have moved through is vast, from fear (the 45 minutes that my husband would not answer his phone bc he was out on a walk with our youngest and I could not get past the police barricades to reach home), complete disbelief, intense grief, intolerance to the excuses, anger, hope, love (always love) – and other emotions that I can’t quite name. Sometimes I’ll get blissfully distracted with work or my family, and then, gut punch, it all comes back to me. I’ve set out candles and attended the vigils; I’ve anguished over how, what, how much to tell our two young daughters; we’ve listened to soul-filling music, we’ve painted rocks to leave at the memorial, talked with counselors, photographed runners during the #Run4BoulderStrong 10k, joined MomsDemandAction, baked cookies for survivors, and donated money to help ease their pain. And yet, my 6 year old is now having nightmares that a man is hunting her with a gun. And what do I do about that (yes, we are getting counseling)? This is not fair to our kids, or anyone, for that matter.
In all the other mass shootings, I never realized the impact to the community as a whole. Of course, I mourn for lives lost and their families; I mourn for those who survived and are struggling to piece their lives back together. I never understood the impact to the community. It is intense. As a community, we continue to mourn together, to run together, to make art together, to talk and try to make sense of it all, and yes, to join political movements to help ensure this never happens again (but that’s a very long road).
They say that this happened “too close to home” and my response to that is: “this IS home”. This is the shopping center where I have walked or biked my kids to multiple times per week – especially pre-pandemic. It’s the place where I, for years, pushed my babies to in their stroller at 5:45am to grab my coffee at Café Sole, because we were awake and there was no going back to sleep. That same coffee shop where countless friends and colleagues meet up to work or chat. It’s where I took my oldest for breakfast at Walnut Café every Saturday morning before we went to our pottery class together – a way for momma and daughter to connect after the welcome intrusion of a baby sister. It’s where my kids have taken other art classes at Tinker Art Studio through the years. It’s where we do quick hardware runs at the Ace or purchase our pharmacy supplies at Pharmaca. It’s where school kids meet up on the last day of school to get ice cream at Sweet Cow and the line winds around the corner and down the block. And yes, it’s where we’ve gotten our groceries for years. I can envision all the aisles and where to get all the things, and I cannot get it out of my head what I would have done had I been in there during the shooting. And what if I had my kids with me….how would I get them out? How do I keep them safe? I’ve had a mantra for years: “There are no guarantees in this life”….but I guess I hoped we could provide some level of safety and blissful innocence to our kids for a bit longer. It’s clear I cannot promise safety; I can only promise the right here and the right now, but that has always been true.
Our community will continue to mourn and heal. My heart goes out to everyone reeling in the aftermath. I pray that our action is not reduced simply to the hashtag #BoulderStrong, but that we all come together to end gun violence for good. I hope we strive to create a world worthy of our kids, a world where they don't have to fear going to the grocery store or the movies. A world where if they or their friends need a little extra support in this life, it is readily available and not stigmatized.
In memory of Denny, Neven, Rikki, Tralona, Suzanne, Teri, Kevin, Lynn, Jody, and Eric.
May they rest in peace. May their families find peace in their memories and know that their whole community is holding them up. I wish I could hug them all and take away all the pain.