Dec. 7, 2015
Sometimes, even journalists can be at a loss for words.
With the events of Nov. 27, and the loss of UCCS Police Officer Garrett Swasey and two other civilians in the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, it falls to us to describe terrible events so that the public is informed and educated.
Often, we are unsuccessful. We fall hopelessly short, not with the information, but with words. How do you describe something that is indescribable? We do the best we can, like everyone in that scenario.
But in the aftermath, it can allow all of us a moment to reflect. It is a time for mourning; it is a time for reflection on who we are, and who we are not.
For many around the country, and even those still new to campus, the first time they will have heard about UCCS is through the events of Nov. 27.
But for those closer to UCCS, those who have seen what we are about, we know that this is not who we are and we are not defined by tragedy.
Who we are goes so much deeper than that. Through Swasey, we can find ourselves, and what we stand for.
We are a community that steps up in a time of need.
That idea was most exemplified by Swasey himself. Nov. 27 was a time of need for our community, and he never hesitated in his understanding that he would rise to the call.
As police chief Brian McPike said in a press conference Nov. 28, “If you needed a go-to guy, Garrett was that person.”
UCCS is no different. The people here step up in a time of need, whether it is hosting cadets from the Air Force Academy during the Waldo Canyon fire or dealing with other issues that come up.
McPike said of Swasey: “He was always ready and willing to go help, and I will always remember that about him.”
“His spirit came through in everything that he did.”
We are a community that stands strong in the face of challenges and heartbreak. A day after the shooting, we kept two basketball games as scheduled in Gallogly Events Center, despite the trials of the last 24 hours.
This allowed our community an opportunity to hurt, and then begin to heal, together. And on that day, two basketball games were more than just two basketball games.
“We always have officers working the games, and one of the times I saw (Swasey) most was working these games,” chancellor Pamela Shockley- Zalabak said at the press conference. “So in some ways, this is a really fitting way to pay tribute to him at the beginning of the games.”
UCCS did pay tribute. Moments of silence for Swasey and the other victims preceded both games.
That leads us to the final point about who we are. Leading the charge for tribute were UCCS students.
Students here, when it comes down to it, care deeply about this community. We stand strong.
The idea for a vigil after the games, which was attended by hundreds of people, came from students. Much of the organization for the #UCCSSTRONG wristbands came from students. There are countless ideas that have fl own into the Student Life and Leadership office that seek to honor the sacrifi ce of Garrett Swasey.
“(The vigil) came from the students and they are not even here, we are in the middle of vacation and people are coming from all over the state and coming back early,” Shockley-Zalabak said at the press conference.
Most importantly, Swasey, and UCCS, never give up. Shockley-Zalabak, at the press conference, summed it up best.
“This is a tough time for us, but I know that we will be strong as a community moving forward.”
This all may sound a bit intangible, a bit up in the air. But you learn the most about people when things seem at their darkest, when they are at a low point. You can find out a lot about who we are.
And who we are is something we can all be proud of.