I opened up my computer an hour ago to type up an update on things here and have been swimming since in updates on the mass shooting in Boulder, CO yesterday. It hits close.
In 7th grade I started going to a new middle school right behind the King Soopers, good ole’ Southern Hills. Being that the school was 30 minutes from our house, we often stopped in to the store for dinner items on the way home, that store. Actually, in my first act of tween rebellion I stole a lipstick from the make-up department at King Soopers, and my mom, upon finding out, made me return it and offer a personal apology to the manager. Still regret that one, but man, Alice, spot on with the natural consequence, that manager put the fear of God into me.
Some of my first acts of independence and real growing-up, aside from stealing frosty purple Wet n’Wild, included riding the local bus, The Skip, from Kellie and Lindsey’s houses down to King Soopers. Sometimes we would stop at Quizno’s, other times Cafe Sole, but always King Soopers. We’d buy a couple things then use our transfer ticket to ride The Skip back home (which was totally against the rules being that it wasn’t a “transfer”, but a return trip and it made us feel alive on the inside of our pre-teens souls.) Actually, my first kiss, yep that’s right, was on the sidewalk between King Soopers and Abo’s Pizza. Romantic, I know. In high school, this was the store we grabbed snacks at before softball practice, ran to in-between classes if we forgot supplies for a project, and it’s where all of my friends parents shopped for groceries for their families, things like applesauce and frozen Stouffer’s tuna casserole, and Fritos with cream cheese to dip them in. Or, at least, this is what Kellie’s parents were buying for us.
I have been in that building hundreds of times.
And, actually, all of that really means very little compared to the 10 lives that don’t get to detail how integral this store was to them. For me, it hits close to home, but only in memory. Only in the way that I can sit in Philadelphia and stare out over a bustling city and reminisce on all the developments of my inner-self that came out of a grocery store, now the hub of national tragedy.
I’m thinking of my friends. All of my Boulder friends who grew-up in this area who are feeling shaken. Who are waking up this morning in different parts of the world and feeling a deep urge to call Boulder their home, to announce to the world that this was their store. That this was too close.
I’m thinking of my current mom friends who live in Boulder now, who shop at this store daily with their young kids. The moms who are realizing with terror that they were at the store the same time the day before, or that they had plans to swing by yesterday, but ran out of time because their schedule was too busy. I am thinking about all of the “what might have been” conversations running through the grief-filled community. I am thinking about my MOPs group, a group I was on leadership with for many years, with upwards of 75 moms, all of whom live around that area.
And I guess really, where I stop thinking and start just staring out the window, is when I think of the 10 people who don’t get to tell us about the memories of their neighborhood grocery store, who don’t get to let us know why they were there, what errand they were running, or what act of independence they were playing out.
I kept updating the webpages yesterday and there remained no new info on casualties. “Looks like they got the guy, he walked out with some police,” a friend texted, “So, hopefully it was nothing.” I prayed repeatedly, “Please God, let this be an overreaction. Let the number of police be a gross expression of force, let it be for nothing. Let us all wake-up tomorrow and shout about how stupid it was that hundreds of swat officers throughout the front range rushed in, all for nothing. How insane it is that we’ve created a society of gun violence where this is the response to nothing.”
This morning the news seemed more clear, though still fuzzy. 10 people dead. It wasn’t an overreaction after all.
Last night, I saw a quote from one gentleman who escaped the store, out of the back, off a loading dock, where he said many other customers were helping each other, specifically the younger people helping the elderly (off the loading docs). I pictured the scene and felt weak. But it wasn’t the imagination of the scene that set me off, it was how he described the efficiency with which they were helping each other.
“It seemed like all of us had imagined we would be in a situation like this at some point in our lives,” he said.
This. This is why this tragedy makes all of us uneasy. Because we have all done it. We have all gone in to a store, or a busy place and had the thought of, “How do I get out of here if something goes awry?” This is what is means to live in a country where anyone with money and time has simple access to an assault riffle. Don’t at me on this conservatives, not today.
Holding close all those affected by this senseless tragedy. Holding space for the grief and trauma that moments like this unleash on all of us, in the city or not. And also, most of all, holding expectant hope that someday, gun reform will not be a partisan issue.