AURORA – Born, raised and still living in Aurora, Elsa Chavez was deeply saddened to learn of the Feb. 15 mass shooting that killed five Henry Pratt Co. employees and wounded six police officers.
It was even more devastating when she realized that her 4-year-old-son, Ryu, figured out that something really, really bad must have happened.
“I was talking to my in-laws about what happened and my son overheard our conversation and became really scared,” she said. “The fact that he understood what was going on in our community made me really sad. That’s why I’m here with him. I wanted to show him there are more people in his world that have love in their hearts and I want him to know that we have to fight for the right to feel safe in our community.”
Chavez attended Indivisible Aurora’s vigil on the afternoon of Feb. 18 in downtown Aurora that paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the Feb. 15 tragedy.
“Today is about demonstrating solidarity of the families of those killed, those wounded physically and those who will carry the emotional scars for a lifetime,”said Chuck Adams, executive director of Indivisible Aurora. “It is about showing that our community cannot be broken. It is about affirming that senseless and tragic events like this stir the soul of this community in ways that demonstrate its compassionate and loving spirit.”
Richmond resident Nicki Carter made the 90-minute drive to offer her support and to give Greg Zanis of Crosses for Losses a hug.
“I just feel terrible for what happened,” she said. “I don’t think you have to know the people to come out and grieve, but it’s a shame that it takes violence to bring us together.”
B’nai Israel Rabbi Edward Friedman praised the strength of the Aurora community and its diversity especially during these dark days.
“I was heartened by the subtle message our leadership projected on the national news when the press conference was held on Friday afternoon,” he said. “There before the eyes of the world was the microcosm of Aurora, our female police chief, Kristen Zeman, our African-American Mayor Richard Urban and our Jewish Governor J.B. Pritzker.”
Rev. John Bell of Aurora’s Wesley United Methodist Church said it’s going to take everyone to stop future tragedies like this one from happening time and time again.
“We’re a wonderful community and we can work together to prevent these tragedies, but only when everyone is allowed to come together,” he said. “So that’s our hope and what we want to do.”
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, told the crowd to politicize this tragedy to force change.
“They’re going to say don’t politicize this, but please do,” he said. “Politicize it because we aren’t going to change anything if we don’t politicize this and talk about it because we’re not doing enough about it right now.”
That’s apparent because U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, sadly recalled a similar tragedy happening at Northern Illinois University almost 11 years ago to the day.
“Why is it that in those 11 years we haven’t come farther as a country, as a society, to make sure this sort of tragedy doesn’t happen,” he asked. “As a member of Congress, our government has a lot to answer to for what we have not accomplished and I hope we will see over time that these deaths and countless others like them around the country will not end up as lives lost in vain, but will be brought forward as a way to recharge our efforts to do something about this gun violence.”