Guest Editorial: In the Boulder community, a long moment of grief

Israel Wheatley, former Scribe editor and UCCS alumni

I moved to Boulder in July 2020. Taking food with me wasn’t a priority–I chose my apartment in particular because of how close it was to King Soopers. To give you an idea, it takes me 30 seconds to walk to the intersection right at King Soopers. The very first thing I did when I moved to Boulder was go to King Soopers. No one expected this community hub to be the location for the next mass shooting in this country. 

     I was lucky. My roommate was at home texting our group chat about a ton of police at the store; my sister had just started walking to Goodwill minutes before. I was in Denver helping my boyfriend move when I got the call. “Iz… are you okay?” Richard, one of my best friends, doesn’t call me, especially with this tone, unless something is going on. Something was wrong. I felt every single cell, molecule, atom in my body sink, implode. On a normal day, I could have been grabbing potatoes for breakfast. I could have had a craving for a coffee at Starbucks. My roommates and I could have been bored and gone to King Soopers two to three more times, something completely normal for us. Not that day. 

     I wasn’t there. But I was. We all were. Kings in South Boulder was and is an important part of the entire Boulder community: where high schoolers hang out after school, where parents shop in the morning, where people of all ages and status shop–students at CU, bankers at Elevations Credit Union, workers at Snarf’s. We see the same faces at the cash registers, the same young people stocking the shelves, managing the café, talking and joking amongst themselves. This was a place for everyone. 

     One of the most unfortunate parts about shootings in America is how commonplace they are, how detached we feel to a shooting across the country–detached yet angry. When it happens in your own community, there is an extra level of tragedy. Of shock, sadness, grief, horror. Just a few days after the racist shooting in Atlanta, which the activist group Moms Demand Action was planning an event for. This is America. We have no room to breathe. Nowhere to go without the risk of violence and murder.  

     I don’t want to spew words about gun control–we all have our opinions, we need it, we need to take action and talk about the possibilities, give new ideas a try, even talk about the impact of the NRA in the Boulder community and how connected they were to this shooting. But at this time, we need to mourn. We need to grieve. 

     This year has been awful for most of us. If it hasn’t been awful for you, terrific. But for most of us, we haven’t had time to grieve the loss of over half a million Americans, and the loss of another 10 in our Boulder community has opened the wound even more. Fuck productivity–this happened the week we should have had our spring break, the week when everyone is conditioned to take a break and breathe, to relax. Instead, we faced tragedy. We felt it. We cried. We trembled. Across the neighborhood, the city, the county, the state, the nation.  

     The CU community has pretended not to feel it–they sent out a few emails talking about “we’re all in this together,” “stay strong,” “teachers, be flexible, we won’t tell you how but do it.” We have received little support other than the occasional, “here are some resources that could help.” I tried my hardest to be there for my students above all, because we all know the extent to which the wellbeing of undergrads is ignored. We need time. We need time. And more time, and more time, and more space, and more time. In a year that feels like time has both stood still and moved faster than ever before, we can’t even grasp it.  

     What more can I say? We are all horrified by this attack on our community in Boulder. Seeing family in other states spouting conspiracy theories about democrats being behind this before they even check to see if you’re okay, that’s the reality of America. These gruesome, unnecessary deaths are the reality of America. The lives and livelihood of AAPI are being threatened more now than ever in our generation, this is the reality of America. The constant struggle and pressure to work when we are mentally and physically unable, this is the reality of America. 

     Take a breath. Remember that we all meet our end. Remember that some of us reach it long before we should. Remember to sit and think, to grieve and mourn the lives lost to this violence, these shootings, in schools and parks and grocery stores. Remember to listen to the grief of others, to their anger and their demands. Listen, then repeat. Join the discussion and help. Just remember.  

A vigil held in Boulder for the shooting victims.
Photo courtesy of Hugh Carey / The Colorado Sun.