Communities living in the aftermath of mass shootings

By Anthony Cusat

Photo: Ivan Samkov

On Jan. 21, 2023, a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California became a tragic scene in a mass shooting that took the lives of 11 people and injured nine more. Just two days later, another mass shooting in Half Moon Bay made national headlines as another seven people lost their lives with one more left injured. According to the Gun Violence Archive, these incidents are two of the 54 mass shootings that have occurred since the beginning of 2023.

Immediate media coverage of these events may shine a temporary light on recovery, but the aftermath of mass shootings presents a new set of challenges for communities to overcome.

According to a working study, there is evidence to suggest that communities that experience a mass shooting event have a reduced probability of excellent community well-being and emotional health by 27 and 13 percentage points respectively four weeks after the event occurs.

Lola Quraishi, a first-year student at the University of Virginia, saw the effects of one of these events after a mass shooting on the school’s campus in November of 2022. The shooter took the lives of three students and injured two more. In reference to the climate of Charlottesville after the shooting, Quraishi said, “It was just really somber and desolate… After it was confirmed that three people passed away, it was basically silent. I’ve never been in a situation so eerie. ”

After lockdown provisions were lifted, Quraishi said that the community came together in a way she has never experienced before. Flowers lined various monuments and people attended memorial services in honor of those who lost their lives.

However, as the months progressed, the physical reminders of what happened began to dissipate. Quraishi said, “It was sad slowly seeing the flowers dying around statues, and then when we came back from break, pretty much everything was gone… We all know that it still happened, but physically, remnants are going away.”

The retiring of other physical reminders also can be used in communities to start the recovery process. In the case of the Virginia Tech shooting, one of these efforts came in the form of renovations to Norris Hall, the location where 30 victims lost their lives. Additionally, the planned destruction and rebuilding of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas serves a similar purpose after the shooting that occurred in May of 2022.

As for those affected by mass shootings, there is no forgetting. “Now that it’s happened, we know it could happen again,” Quraishi said. Now, Quraishi hopes this experience will help others know the warning signs before events like these have the chance to repeat.

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