This one hit waay too close to home.
Friday's workplace shooting at the Henry Pratt firm in Aurora, Illinois took place at a company my co-workers and I know well.
I work for a company two towns over from Aurora. We move heavy machinery. We've done work for Pratt for years. In fact, we're all over Aurora, working for customers on a near-weekly basis.
On Friday at the Henry Pratt facility, a gunman (and I will not name him) opened fire in a meeting, killing four men. The meeting had been called to terminate the man's employment. As he left, he reportedly shot a fifth man just outside the door. He continued his onslaught, including shooting five Aurora cops, before being taken down by other officers.
And thank God for that. Five victims were bad enough. (A sixth person was shot but survived.) The company was loaded with employees and the death count could have been much higher.
Here is who we lost on Friday:
Plant manager Josh Pinkard, 37. He and his wife, Terra, had three kids. He texted his wife, telling her that he loved her and had been shot at work. It was his final communication.
HR Manager Clayton Parks, 32. He leaves a wife and infant son.
Employee and union chairman Russell Beyer. He took up the union chair upon the retirement of his father. He leaves a wife and two children.
Vicente Juarez, 55. A warehouseman and forklift driver, he was said to be passing the room as the shooter exited. He leaves a wife, three kids and eight grandchildren.
HR intern Trevor Wehner, 21. Friday was his first day of work at the Pratt company. He was in the meeting room as part of the firing of the shooter. Trevor would have graduated from Northern Illinois University in May.
Gone in a hail of gunfire.
The shooter was a felon who had no legal right to firearms. In fact, his FOID card had been revoked. Still - this is America. Guns are everywhere and easily accessible. Anyone can get their hands on a weapon if properly motivated. ANYone. Regardless of mental state. Regardless of ANYthing.
The one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was also this past week, one day before the Pratt shooting. That shooting turned many of the survivors into super-motivated anti-gun advocates. The kids are strongly committed to legislative change and not allowing people to forget the carnage they endured.
And now, sadly, we have a local opportunity of our own. So far - and it's understandable - we have only crosses and vigils and rhetoric. All balm for the souls of the victims' families, and that's important.
But what happens tomorrow? Next week? After the next shooting?
What happens when it's YOUR loved one - or YOU?
I confess, I am becoming fearful, and I HATE it. But fear of being shot to death is keeping me of out of banks and music venues and even restaurants. We all are sitting ducks. And I don't know how to process that, not to mention what to DO about it.
I sit five feet from the front door at my office. We've fired people, too. Don't think I don't have an escape plan if I see danger coming from across our parking lot. Because I do. I think about it all the damned time.
One minute you are alive, the next, shot and dying. One minute you're 21 years old - enjoying your first day on a job, probably had a nice lunch - and an hour later you. are. dead.
We are governed by people who do nothing to stop this. The NRA has a bully pulpit and is far too powerful. Too many Americans misconstrue the Second Amendment to believe that they have the right to an arsenal. Mental state is not taken into account when you purchase a firearm.
At this juncture, I guess we just have to continue to rely on our brave men and women in blue - like the exemplary job done by the Aurora police on Friday (and officers and SWAT teams from many other departments). Five of their own down, yet all survived. Surely a testiment to excellent training and consummate bravery. Still, a miracle.
Keep aware, my friends. How terrible that no one's "spidey sense" went off in that termination meeting. The shooter just must have been able to control himself - until he did what he came to do.
Pray for the families of the Pratt shooting. The victims were our brothers. Chicagoland men. Home folks.
While you're at it, pray a mighty prayer for sanity and peace and proper Congressional legislation!
We are numb, we are fearful, we are at wit's end.
Start by contacting your senators and congressman.
You have a voice. USE it. Threaten to vote them out. Do SOMETHING.
This has got to stop!
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Filed under: Violence