It was a busy day with a myriad of issues flowing in and out of my purview. Monday usually feels like a weekend day at my store. In between covering breaks, writing production and receiving the days shipment there isn’t much time for reflection — I am usually on cruise control. Somewhere around the middle of my shift I had a moment to sit down at the desk and check my emails that I neglected all day, when I looked down at my phone, and I noticed a text from another supervisor that read, “Did you hear about what happened?”
“No. What’s up?” I responded.
“There’s an active shooter at King Soopers in Boulder.” Which is about twenty miles north of our location. “Not a lot of information yet but multiple fatalities. So scary, dude.”
A moment passed before what he said registered with reality, but once it hit me, my immediate instinct was to avoid spiraling into a conversation about the shooting. I still had to focus and push through the shift and it’s never a great idea to dive into early reports of senseless tragedies when they are happening in real time. So, I responded, “That’s crazy. I haven’t looked into it yet.” and immediately changed the conversation to silly gifs and texting about other things since it’s been a few days since we worked together.
The night moved along. But despite having plenty of things to do there was this subtle creeping anxiety and sadness that permeated every moment. Visions of gunfire and blood and people hiding in closets bounced in and out of my mind. The horrid realities the people in Boulder faced was (and is) unconscionable. The pain and suffering happening at that very moment was impossible to keep away. I worried about my staff and the customers and myself. It could happen to us. How could someone attack a grocery store? It’s the place most of us acquire our nutrients. It’s essential, goddamnit. But then it hit me — that’s exactly why someone would try to destroy life in such a place, because it means so much to everyone in a community.
We closed up shop on schedule. Things went pretty smooth over all. Everyone worked hard and we completed our tasks. I close our department all the time, so, I take this for granted most nights but that night I admired our accomplishment. Grocery store employees don’t get paid large sums of money. They are quickly forgotten, but they still work hard. Many of them are just getting by or going to college or it’s a retirement job. The people that work there are not an easily defined group of individuals. And they work with the public where bad things can happen on a whim. Now, I’m reminded that they put their “life on the grocery line” in a multitude of ways. I admire their strength and work ethic, and adore the ridiculous and fun conversations our team has with customers who are a joy to serve. I smile at the comradery our staff has with the police officers who watch over us. A grocery store is a good place. It’s a family.
Once everyone was gone, I sat down with a heavy heart. The very real fears of life and death crawled all over me. Thank God, we made it through our shift, but we were the lucky ones. Only twenty miles away, others weren’t so fortunate. I didn’t know if those who lost their lives in Boulder were staff, customers or police. I told myself it was far too early to know those details. Truth is that I didn’t want to know. But that was beside the point anyway, because I knew families were torn apart — shredded by evil run amok in a place where we are all supposed to come together. Beautiful and rare human life was snuffed out for no good reason and far too early, leaving smiles and hugs that will only be memories. The City and People of Boulder will have to start to heal. People’s lives will never be the same. My heart shatters for the ones who lost their lives and the friends and family that have to go on without the ones they love. Here are the names of those gone far too soon:
Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; Rikki Olds, 25; Neven Stanisic, 23; Denny Stong, 20; and Jody Waters, 65; Eric Talley, 51.
The families of the victims and the community will need financial help. Here are a few ways you can help them out during this incredibly tough time.