Ryan Borowski didn’t expect that a trip to King Soopers on a Monday afternoon would end with him being interviewed by CNN, MSNBC and other news outlets after yet another mass shooting, this one taking 10 lives in — of all places — Boulder, Colorado.
“Boulder feels like a bubble, and the bubble burst, and that’s heartbreaking,” Borowski told CNN, having related to news outlets that a split-second decision not to venture to the other side of the grocery store on Table Mesa Drive for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream likely saved his life.
Instead, Borowski headed in the opposite direction, eventually fleeing the store out the back and through the loading dock as shots rang out and victims fell.
For people in Boulder and neighboring communities, the shock of the shooting remains palpable, and all too familiar. From the 1993 shooting at Chuck E.Cheese in Aurora, to the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton in 1999, to the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, Colorado has witnessed seven mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or wounded. But traumatic shootings have actually been far more numerous, including the 2017 shooting at a Walmart in Thornton in which three people died.
The Denver Post estimates that in the seven mass shootings since 1993, 47 people have been killed in Colorado, with 117 injured. Add in the toll from the other shootings, and the numbers become even more disturbing.
As shooting follows shooting, I’ve heard over and over a similar refrain, “If it can happen in Aurora, it can happen anywhere.” “If it can happen at Sandy Hook, it can happen anywhere.” “If it can happen at [fill in the blank], it can happen anywhere.” “If it can happen in Boulder, it can happen anywhere.”
Guess what? It can happen anywhere, and if a mass shooting has not touched someone, somewhere, the odds are that one will, eventually. And that is very, very sad.
The shootings were not hoaxes, not frauds, not fake news. They happened, and they chip away at our souls.
As the gunman opened fire with an AR-15 about 2:40 p.m. on that Monday, I was under anesthesia for a routine medical procedure at a health-care facility in Lafayette. Afterward, my son drove me to a Safeway in nearby Erie, where I picked up some groceries. It was only when I returned home that I heard what was unfolding in Boulder.
Going to a grocery store, a pizza restaurant, a theater, a high school should not be a dangerous endeavor, but evil can strike anywhere, and it does.
As the hours progressed, I dreaded hearing the names of the victims, fearful that I would know one or more. I have many friends who shop at that same, neighborhood King Soopers. I’ve been there many times before, and I’ve frequented neighboring shops again and again.
Yet, as the victims’ names were released the next day, relief that I didn’t personally know the victims was the farthest thing from my mind.
Because I did know them. I knew each and every one of them. Those who were King Soopers employees represent all of the brave, friendly grocery-store workers that I’ve known for years, people who loved their jobs, engaged in friendly banter at a checkout stand or helped find an elusive item. Boulder police officer Eric Tally represents the best of law enforcement, the first police officer on the scene, only to be struck down. Others were entrepreneurs or owners of retail shops, workers at radio stations or in the performing arts.
I know people like each and every one of the victims, and feel as if I know them as well.
As I attempt to process what has happened in Boulder, I will remember these individuals whose names were not familiar but whose best traits I recognize in those whom I do know. I will think of them as I go about my life and as I encounter others who remind me of what I’ve learned of them.
That’s the least we can do: to remember.
Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.