Marking Myself Safe in Boulder

After a year of isolation, taking precautions, and assessing risk when shopping at the local grocery store, it has become a place where getting a COVID-19 vaccination is associated with freedom and the restoration of a somewhat normal life. Until yesterday.

We’ve been here before — Jon Benet Ramsey’s murder incited fear of a child killer on the loose in Boulder. At that time, I called a police officer friend and asked if Boulder was still safe for my kids. “Yes,” she said. Years later, Columbine became the first of many school shootings. After the Batman movie mass murder in Aurora, I was frantic to contact my son, who had been in the area with friends that night. I can’t express the relief I felt when hearing his voice rough from sleep.

After the King Soopers massacre, some people will react in fear, stay home, check for exits whenever they’re inside a building. Don’t do that. Assessing risk is natural. Preparing for mass murder is not. 

When the Facebook notification popped up to mark myself safe, I was surprised. I live in Niwot, north of Boulder. Maybe Facebook knows that I drive by the King Soopers in Table Mesa twice a week. Broadway becomes Highway 93, a thoroughfare to Golden, Colorado, and I-70 to the mountains. Almost anyone from Boulder County could have been in that grocery store on Monday afternoon. 

I moved to Boulder thirty years ago for many reasons — the beauty of the Flatirons, its outdoorsy and Zen people, parks, and places to recreate. A college town similar to Madison, Wisconsin, where I grew up. Family and community-oriented, I felt safe raising a family here. 

Boulder Flatirons from the Res

A lot has changed worldwide. Our lives have become fast-paced — time a rare commodity. People aren’t entertaining like they once did. We don’t always know our neighbors.

The world stopped with the spread of COVID-19. Whatever social life we enjoyed slowed or ended. I don’t need to reiterate all of the other turmoil we’ve endured in the US, but we thought the worst was behind us. I did. 

Now, this. Just as we round the corner from the year from hell, another form of hell arises. 

So, what do we do?

First, we grieve with the families of those who were murdered. We grieve for Boulder. We grieve for a world where a man can walk into a grocery store parking lot with a high-powered rifle and obliterate lives in a matter of minutes. We grieve for the survivors who won’t be able to forget the sounds, the cries, the bodies, the scene that will play out in their minds for years to come. We grieve for the friends and family of the killer. They will wonder how they missed it — the signs, the hatred, the mental illness.

And then, once we’ve been vaccinated, we reach out. We find ways to make a difference in our neighborhoods and communities. We practice patience. Kindness. Inclusivity. Empathy. Compassion. Can we do that? Of course, we can.

When a tragedy like this happens, moving forward needs to include more than looking out for ourselves. Wanting to be better people isn’t enough. Wanting Boulder to be safer isn’t enough. This soul-crushing event becomes meaningful when we come together as a community — tears from our collective sorrow to fertilize the ground where hope and new ideas grow. We can make Boulder even better than before.

This was published in The Boulder Daily Camera.

Have you ever had to mark yourself safe on Facebook? Have you been to Boulder? Would you hesitate now?

47 thoughts on “Marking Myself Safe in Boulder

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  1. I really have no plans to return to the US, at all, even for a visit. I have hope that my oldest daughter will move back to Germany with us. It’s not perfect here, there are violent actions on occasion. But nothing on the scale that happens in the US on such a regular basis. It makes me sad, The Michigan childhood that I had isn’t there anymore for those growing up.

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    1. Nice to see you, Cherie!

      You’re not coming back because of fear? That makes me sad. Danny and I traveled to Europe a couple of years ago for the Bloggers Bash right after the 2017 terrorist attack in London. When we emerged from the train station, everyone walked about enjoying the sunshine, including small children in the cutest of uniforms, just let out from school. Londoners taught me that the way to fight against violence is to continue to live normally. Otherwise, terrorism wins.

      Luckily, these events are not widespread and most are caused by mental illness. We still don’t know a lot about this man, but my prayers go out to all of the families and friends affected by the senseless violence.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Our world is slowly declining. I’ve never used Facebook and am receiving my first dose of vaccine tomorrow. I will feel a bit more confident but we must continue to wear the mask and sanitise as much as possible. Be well and safe, Susie. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, John. When remembering Columbine, we had no idea how much worse things would get. I have to believe there will be a turning point — some way to reach out to troubled people with mental illness to stop this from happening.

      So glad to hear you are getting the vaccination, John! Do a happy dance for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m so glad you and your family are safe, Susie.

    I’ve never had to mark myself as ‘safe’ on Facebook. Probably because I didn’t know you could do that. However, I deleted my account about four years ago.

    This post reminds me very much of the London terrorist attacks on July 7th 2005. I lived and worked in London then and had just got to work (via the London underground) when all hell let loose. We had no idea what had happened until the phone system (including mobile phones) went dead. The next morning, I got on the London underground again, determined not to allow terrorism to win.

    I was also working and living in London during the IRA bombing campaign. They were scary times, but peace and love always prevails and wins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That must have been scary. It is so unnerving and a shock when it happens in your backyard. Our state is behind in making therapy free and available to those who are struggling. We need to destigmatize mental health too. Don’t get me started about gun control. Yes! Peace and love do prevail. ❤️

      Thanks so much, Hugh and for checking on me through Twitter!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “This soul-crushing event becomes meaningful when we come together as a community — tears from our collective sorrow to fertilize the ground where hope and new ideas grow.” I love this Susie. Fear is never the answer. However small, each of us can sow something that looks like love and kindness into our communities. The antithesis of fear. Thank you💕

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you and your family are safe. It is so sad that these things seem to happen more often lately. I also agree, if we live in fear and hideaway, the terrorists and evildoers win.

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    1. Thank you, Darlene!
      Actions can speak louder than words, so I went to King Soopers yesterday, had my hair cut and colored and went to the eye doctor today and ski shop today. Out and about in Boulder, Colorado!

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      1. Completely agree – there is so much to make better, but if we look forward and try, we can hopefully reduce or eliminate these tragedies – certainly stop them from being an accepted part of life…

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  6. I’m glad you’re safe and that you’re family is OK. Multiple shootings in one week would make anyone scared. Everyone is on edge, especially when you think you’re not safe at grocery stores, movies, schools, or concerts. It can happen anywhere. You don’t know. But that doesn’t mean people should get used to it. Used to that feeling. It’s really unfortunate that background checks and safety measures aren’t taken more seriously when shootings happen. Devastating really. Could help save lives. But some people aren’t empathetic, don’t change unless they are personally effected, which is sad. I agree with you that you shouldn’t let fear control you but you do have to be vigilant in general if policy isn’t going to change. I think that good people out there help out at times like these and sometimes people find comfort in that. Kindness goes a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No one should get used to violence or accept it EVER.

      Back in the 70s, I knew a really nice guy who died in a European terrorist attack. I can’t remember which airport, but it didn’t make me afraid to fly. If I were to think about a possible terrorist attack every time I left the house, it would reduce my quality of life.

      I’m pretty observant. When I see something, I say something. I was in New York during the Gay Pride parade and found two brand new upright vacuum cleaners inside dry cleaning bags, sitting on the sidewalk where tons of people were walking by. What if they were filled with nails? I called 911 and reported them.

      You’re right! Kindness goes a long way! ❤️
      Thank you, Guat!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As I said on Facebook, I was so relieved to hear from you that you and your family were safe. Yes, I’ve experienced the “mark safe” app. You might remember in 2019 a disgruntled employee shot and killed 12 people in the Virginia Beach City Offices. I had been there just a week before filing a document. It really makes you think when it hits so close to home.

    Having said that, I totally agree with your assessment of life after these incidents. Today or tomorrow is never guaranteed in this life. It’s a dangerous world yes, but far too beautiful and exciting to miss it all by cowering in fear of what might be. This is nothing new. People have been needlessly killing other people since Ort hit Gleg over the head with a club for stepping on his turf back in the stone ages. That will never change. All we can do is exactly what you say, live a good life, contribute to our communities and society in positive ways and let the chips fall as they may.

    Thank you for another of your always positive posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Al, and for checking in with me on Facebook!

      Yes, Ort and Gleg started it all.

      I shopped at King Soopers yesterday and finally got my hair cut — three inches and it’s still down my back — Eye doctor today and a quick trip to the ski shop. It would be ridiculous to be nervous in Boulder. After this event, it’s probably the safest place on Earth! I felt like that in London after one of their terrorist attacks. Like you said, it’s another reminder to live life LARGE!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Well said.
      People have short memories. An elementary school close to mine was bombed by an unstable man when I was a child ( and that was a long time ago…Like Lone Ranger long ago) When I was in college an unstable outraged man shot up a Luby Cafeteria in West TX.
      Bad things happen.
      You have to get up and live.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! Violence has been a sad part of society forever. It’s the recent spike that’s historical. 103 mass murders – probably more now – in the first three months of 2021. So sad.
        Thanks, Phil. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Boulder is an idyllic place. ❤️

      I’m so tired of people defending their rights to bearing assault weapons. Ridiculous is right. I love the idea of treating gun owners like drivers — pass a test and pay for insurance to get a license. Yes!
      Thanks, Jan!

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  8. Well written article, Susie. You’ve said it all for the rest of us. I thought of you when I saw this shooting on the news, and wondered where you were and hoped you were well away from that area at that time.

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    1. Awww! Thanks so much, Anneli!

      I drove by that King Soopers today on my way to the eye doctor. It’s pretty unbelievable. We usually drive down from the mountains on Monday, but Danny had some appointments. I have been out the last two days with appointments, and I shopped at King Soopers. Business as usual! ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

  9. My daughter lived in Aurora at the time of the cinema shooting. I know the feeling of waiting to hear from someone. I admit, it was you I thought of when I heard Boulder, and I hoped you would check in. Maybe quarantine leaves us feeling closer to people we only know through the internet. I’m glad you and your family are safe, and I appreciate your thoughtful response to this tragedy. Thank you for posting.

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    1. Thank you so much, Maggie! (((hugs)))

      That must’ve been terrifying for you. Events like these are so random and unpredictable and even more shocking when they happen in our backyards.

      I’ve been pretty isolated too. We were just coming out of hibernation when this happened. But it hasn’t stopped me from going King Soopers. Gotta live our lives!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Glad you and family are safe. It is a frightening thought to realise that humans, as a species, are capable of such extraordinary acts of violence against strangers. Such incidents seem all too common. What ever became of the basic virtues of kindness and tolerancel? Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Matt. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Boulder trending on Twitter.

      The statisics are alarming. Three months into 2021 and the US has spiked in mass murders — when four of more people are killed. We need a healthy dose of kindness and tolerance, like you said! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thoughts are with all of you in Boulder. As soon as I heard I contacted my son, relieved that he and his wife were safe. Glad you are safe and thought continue to be with all as your community heals. Lori

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  12. Well said, Susie.
    Life is full of calculated risks. People seem to have forgotten that.
    (We did make a few calls to make sure no one was having lunch or shopping in Boulder)
    When I heard the news flash, all I could think about is “of all places, Boulder. Where for years the police reports read hysterically with things like “talked to CU boy trying to hit squirrel with stick” and ” questioned student (drunk) as to why he was kicking boulder beside sidewalk. He said it tripped him…”. Obviously a department who never guessed they would be dealing with this. (A bit concerned there seemed to be no plan to immediately take action. I thought all agencies had thought that out and had coordinated plans in place. – it took 45 min to go inside despite the equipment and knowing there were injuries and potential for bleeding out.)
    Bless those men next door that charged in to rescue, then sheltered some – including seniors with walkers and canes in their establishment. Odd things bring out the best in some people.
    Laws are not seeming to stop these incidents ( CO has some good gun laws including universal background checks)
    Somehow there are those who break the biggest universal law: Do not kill.
    Waiting to see what the murderer does at arraignment. He is refusing to cooperate. Earlier visit to a Kosher grocery and the fact that King Sooper advertises itself as “Your one stop shopping place for Passover/kosher” may play a role. He was devout ( as well as apparently hated abortion, Trump, and tried to plan a trump rally shooting in March) and according to many seemed to be paranoid that people were watching him all the time. The FBI apparently was.
    Mental health issues. Guns. Always the handwringing over those, but while one is clutched as the “easy” fix, little is done about the other. We have to do better with both.
    As if life wasn’t complex enough. The stupid virus and isolation. But it goes on – as it has over centuries of horror stories. All you can do is do the best you can to keep things safe and stabilized for all.
    Did the research and got the vaccine we decided was best for us. We will be visiting Boulder. There’s rocks and thorns in every paradise.
    Onward through the fog (Congrats on the article! They couldn’t have chosen better)

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  13. Nicely said. I teared up when I saw a photo of a Kingsoopers hat hanging on a fence. My oldest son works at the kingsoopers near where the shooter lives. I think they still don’t know why he drove 1/2 hour to Boulder to slaughter those people.

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    1. It’s so sad,Karen. How terrifying to think your son’s place of work could have been chosen instead. When mental illness plays such a huge part, I don’t know if we’ll ever get answers. I wrote this first thing Tuesday morning and have shopped at King Soopers twice since then. They had police officers posted outside the one in Gunbarrel. It’s all so sad. We need significant change in assault weapons laws and treatment for mental illness. The spike in violence has to stop.
      Thank you, Karen. ❤️

      Like

  14. I thought about you when I heard the news and was glad to see you’re safe. As much as I used to think I had answers for these types of tragedies, I’ve come to realize I don’t. As long as people live in extreme pain and dysfunction there will be those that act out in a million different ways. It’s just beyond sad when they feel the need to act out their pain on other people.

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    1. It’s so sad, especially when Boulder has always represented peace. We just went through the student riot! I heard that Colorado has lagged behind other states in helping those with mental illness. They have offered free services to anyone after the massacre and plan to extend it to those in need. These last three months have seen a huge spike in mass murder. I have. To believe it’s related to COVID in several ways.
      Thank you, Susan. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I like your thoughts and conclusion here. I don’t know how a community gets over a massacre like this one, but if there ever was a place destined to do so, it’d be Boulder. This story has dominated our local news because King Soopers is part of Kroger & Kroger is based in Cincinnati. While I don’t know how this will impact their operations, it has at least started a local conversation about guns, mental health issues, and general safety measures. The Boulder community may be larger than it seems.

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    1. You’re right. The community has grown with empathy. I’ve been to King Soopers twice this week and last time, there were two police officers stationed outside. What a world.

      There’s an anxious need to do something to stop the senseless violence incited by those suffering with mental illness. Being isolated with COVID didn’t help. Hopefully change will come soon.

      We had just suffered a black eye with the riot. It’s really such a beautiful and peaceful place. I hope you get to visit one day.

      Thank you, Ally. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Hook!
      It’s surreal since Boulder is known for its old hippies, Buddhists, and happy active outdoor people. We left for Steamboat right after– family ski trip – and are heading back today. It was good to get away.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My novel is all about a group of ancient beings known as The Dark who are largely responsible for the world’s descent into madness and chaos.

        If only this was actually the case; at least then we’d have a target to fight back against.

        But we don’t.
        All we can do is fight a little bit harder every day by being the best versions of ourselves that we can, Susie.

        Like

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