If you were to google “Mass Shooting Aurora, IL”, my hometown will pop up on the screen. This isn’t just another mass shooting, it happened in my hometown.
Five people were killed during the incident — six if you include the gunman, and five officers who were injured during this tragic and horrific event that took place on February 15 around 1:30 pm at the Henry Pratt building.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to go into work and not leave that day. I simply can’t imagine losing a family member or friend this way.
When I found out about this, it was 3:00 and I had just left a daycare, one of the locations I volunteer for hours for my internship. My first thought was, “Is my boyfriend okay?” He works in downtown Aurora, and I immediately texted him with a screenshot of a text alerting me about the mass shooting. A friend knew that I was from the area and wanted to see if I was okay or knew anyone in the area. Fear and panic seeped in as I frantically texted my boyfriend in all caps “ARE YOU OKAY ?!”
To my relief, he replied promptly, telling me that they were safe and following the news coverage of the story and that the gunman had been apprehended. For about five minutes, I tried to search the location of the mass shooting and to find out how far away it was from a location I knew, but I couldn’t find it.
I felt horrified that this happened in a town that I not only grew up in for a time, but I also happened to work in, occasionally, and spend my time in.
My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones, the first responders, the Aurora community. I am saddened by this event. I felt an odd disconnection to this event, however. I wasn’t home at this time, and living on campus, I am not always around the area. It felt weird to see my hometown blasted all over the news, but to see my town come together to create memorials, churches grieving the losses of innocent people, and people I know, making a difference and contributing proceeds and making t-shirts, it’s genuinely heart-warming. Being a part of a community like this, and watching everyone come together has been such a marvelous and glorious thing to watch. I am truly blown away.
What does a mass shooting have to do with mental health? How does it connect? Thinking about a mass shooting can evoke numerous mental health disorders such as PTSD and trauma, anxiety, depression, and working through grief and loss. For those who are directly hit by the event or those of us who just heard about it on the news, this isn’t just another mass shooting, it happened in my hometown.
What are some ways we can work towards healing from the pain and hurt of a traumatic event like this?
It’s always important to talk about events like this. Keeping emotions and feelings bottled up can be detrimental to your own mental health, and, if you explode (emotionally) one day, you can hurt others, too. I don’t know what it’s like to go through something as painful as a mass shooting, but I do know what trauma looks like, in my own life. It’s important to seek help if you ever feel that you simply can’t do life on your own. Seeking help is not a bad thing. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It’s important to take care of yourself, and others, in order to continue bringing healing to those who are hurting. My town will forever be affected by this, but we will grow stronger because of it.
By Sara Corcoran, Undergrad Counseling Intern
Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.