One Week Later

Aurora community continues to heal after becoming the center of the country’s latest mass shooting


Myra Bajwa

Grieving community members placed candles and flowers by the crosses labelled with the names of the five victims at the Henry Pratt Company building.

Today marks the one week anniversary of the mass shooting in Aurora that made national headlines. The city is reeling from the violent actions of a disgruntled employee that resulted in five innocent deaths. One week after, the community has started the process of healing.

Just as school was letting out for the weekend last Friday, students received news of a mass shooting near downtown Aurora. Five employees of the Henry Pratt Company were killed and five Aurora police officers were wounded in the workplace shooting that occurred when an employee reportedly opened fire during his termination meeting on Feb. 15, one day one year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The gunman, Gary Martin, was also killed.

It never happens in your hometown, but today it did.”

— Eric Zaragoza

Across Aurora, residents expressed a familiar sentiment: I didn’t think it would happen here. Long-time residents told the story of a quiet, safe suburb that never saw violence at this level before. Parents shared their fears when West Aurora High School went into lockdown for hours while the situation played out just a few blocks away.

“I was heading home to pick up my brothers from [West Aurora High School] and out of nowhere, I received a call from the school saying that they were on lockdown,” Aurora resident Jeff Mendoza said. “My first reaction was to go to the school right away and make sure everything was okay.”

Aurora now joins a long list of other towns and communities devastated by gun violence. While Aurora made national headlines and spurred another conversation about gun control, the impact on the community will last much longer than the news coverage. Healing will take time, and community groups have already sprung up to help the families of the victims and the community at large recover.

A mourner holds a bouquet of roses at the vigil at the Henry Pratt Company on Sunday, Feb. 17.

“It never happens in your hometown, but today it did,” One Aurora founding member Eddie Zaragoza said.

One Aurora, a non-political community group made up of East Aurora and West Aurora High School students and other Aurora residents, has hosted events with activists and local politicians. The group has also set up vigils and prayers, blood drives, a GoFundMe page to help the families of the victims. Now, the group is planning a silent auction at Two Brothers Roundhouse on Mar. 1, with all proceeds from the night going to the families of the victims.

“We’re telling everyone to come out and support [us] because all of the funds go to the families who lost loved ones and the families of the first responders,” Zaragoza said.

At Metea, Student Government is placing a banner thanking the actions of the Aurora Police Department in the commons today during lunches for students to sign and leave a message. Student Government will be sending a gift basket to the officers who responded to the incident. Also, the girls’ soccer team, along with East Aurora High School, surprised the Aurora Police Department with lunch on Feb. 17.