My Hometown Was The Victim Of The Latest Mass Shooting

My Hometown Just Experienced A Mass Shooting, If We Don't Do Something, Yours Could Be Next

You never think it will happen to you until it does.

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I was on my way out the door to work when I got a panicked call from my mother.

"Can you look at the news online?" she said quickly. "There is a mass shooting somewhere nearby."

My heart stopped. For me, Aurora, Illinois is home. I was born there, I grew up around the area and I attended high school there. My siblings go to school close by and my boyfriend works for a neighboring fire department.

How could my beloved hometown become the victim of the latest tragedy?

After calling my boyfriend, who was at the fire station getting ready to deploy ambulances to the scene, I discovered that it had taken place at a factory nearby. My anxiety hit an all-time high as I watched the updates on all of the local city Facebook pages and groups. Officers down. Gunman at large. Mass casualties.

Hours later, all of the facts came out. A former employee of Henry Pratt's Company, a local industrial warehouse, had recently been let go and decided to get revenge. He entered the warehouse with a gun and began to shoot at random, killing five people and wounding many others, including five police officers. He was killed by local SWAT forces.

I am the kind of person who is pro-gun and pro-gun rights because of the Second Amendment and all of the freedoms I believe we deserve. But that doesn't make what happened okay and it never will.

While this situation doesn't change my mind, it does change my view of the world.

Why would somebody decide that shooting former coworkers was the way to go? Why would anyone want to hurt others? These are the questions that flooded my mind in the hours after the mass shooting. I don't necessarily think we have a gun issue in America, but issues with mental health and valuing life.

We pass bills to kill unborn children. We repeal bills that take away healthcare from millions. We devalue life in its most basic form and respect those around us to still have enough respect for each other's lives. We stigmatize those who need psychiatric care and expect things to still be all right.

This is not all right.

Our country, our system, our values, and morals, they are all broken and backward. We have let mass shootings become normal and violence becomes accepted. It needs to be stopped. There needs to be a change.

One of the people killed was an intern from a local college during his first day on the job. Being a college student applying to internships myself, this hit far too close to home. Nobody deserves to die, least of all in their place of work while trying to further their career.

Five people lost their lives due to someone's disrespect of them. Yes, a gun was the weapon, but a mind was the actor. I pray that someday, our country will return to valuing life and respecting others enough to help them instead of pushing them away. This is not the first mass shooting, but it can be the last. If, and only if, we make sure of it.

If you want to help the victim's families in any way, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral expenses

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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2,044 Mass Shootings Have Followed Sandy Hook, Yet That's Still Not 'Enough' For Us To Take Action

With momentary sadness followed by disgusting ease, we are able to push these tragedies aside faster and faster as they become a foreseen reality.

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On December 14th, 2012, our country was in disbelief as 20 children and 6 adults lives were lost to a gunman who took their lives as well as his own at Sandy Hook Elementary school. On this day, each of us vowed that an event of this demeanor has no place in our world and that we would do everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.

Fast forward 7 years and mass shootings are popping up on the news day after day. As months roll on, it has become easier as a society to normalize these shootings, which is a red flag I never thought possible.

In June 2016, we witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in the United State's history at a nightclub in Orlando, leaving 50 dead on the scene. In between Sandy Hook and this shooting, there were 994 others. 994, let that sink in.

After Orlando, in October 2017, a shooting at a Las Vegas music festival saw 59 dead, becoming the new deadliest shooting in the U.S.

Most recently, a school shooting in Denver has left eight students injured and one 18 years old dead on May 7, 2019. This was preceded by a school shooting in North Carolina only days earlier, where 2 individuals lives were taken and 4 were injured.

As a citizen, it's easier to start distancing yourself from these overwhelmingly sad yet continuous occurrences, telling yourself that "this will be the last one" or that "maybe this will really make the laws change." Yet, no one and no place seems to be safe from these heartbreaking events.

From the most liberal places in California to the reddest southern states and all those in between, there is no pattern to these mass murders. No background or economic status has protected the thousands of innocent people from being taken from us way before their time.

About a month ago, I experienced the scare first hand at my school, the University of Michigan. We were told to go into hiding as police described suspects carrying concealed weapons on campus, with the news that there had been shots fired on the main campus. 4 hours into hiding, we were told that the alert was a false alarm, however, this day showed the disturbing reality of how anyone's life could change in a matter of milliseconds. Saddest of all was the overwhelming amount of times I heard "I knew it would happen here eventually" and "I always thought it would happen on a game day." No student should live in a world where they are expectant of a tragedy like this.

Mass killings of our countries people isn't a political issue. Mass killings of innocent children, teachers, friends, and loved ones should not be a fight between parties. After Sandy Hook, we said enough was enough. Years later, we're still turning on the news to see more lives taken, and the sentiment has been lost.

I've been fortunate enough to not have lost a friend, family member or peer in these 2,043 shootings. As someone who has gone through a false alarm, I can't imagine the reality of having to live on after a freak incident, especially one where you lose a loved one or a fellow community member.

2,044 mass shootings in 7 years, totaling 2,317 deaths and leaving over 8,000 injured. It's time we stand together, put aside our differences and work towards the only thing that should matter: never letting those with these cruel intentions have the opportunity to commit these crimes, and saving innocent lives in the memory of those we have already lost.

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