The ripples from a mass casualty event spread quickly through the community.
Hospitals and public safety organizations are overwhelmed. Families check in with loved ones. Events are canceled or postponed. Colleges, universities and even high schools get a reality check as reports of injuries and fatalities close in. The media coverage magnifies everything.
It is an all too familiar situation. I was not yet 50 and editor at the Denver Business Journal in 1999 when the shootings at Columbine High School launched our country on a trajectory that has consumed so many of our young people.
In 2014, the Isla Vista massacre brought a mass-casualty event to the region, caused UC Santa Barbara to step up its engagement with the community and prompted legislation to help identify people with the potential to put a community at risk.
And now comes the tragedy at the Borderline night club where Ian David Long, a Marine Corps veteran, killed a dozen people, injured many more and took his own life.
Among the victims were many young people attending a “college night party” but also Ron Helus, a 59-year-old sergeant with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, who died while saving many, many lives.
One thing that I have learned is that it is hard to overstate the emotional impact that these events have on communities that are affected by them. Schedules are disrupted, institutions are stretched to the breaking point, families bury their dead and must cope with recovery from sometimes grievous injuries and thousands bear the emotional scars.
Clearly we are not yet equipped as a society to have so many people with mental issues walking around untreated and in possession of weapons that easily can be modified to cause mass casualties.
On Nov. 6, at a post-election rally in Santa Barbara, I had a brief conversation with Richard Martinez, the father of one of the Isla Vista victims. He continues to work on gun control issues as an advocate with the nonprofit “Everytown for Gun Safety,” and he told me that the Parkland shootings in Florida had energized a new generation of voters on this issue.
On Nov. 8, I turned on the television and watched as Sheriff Geoff Dean, literally on his last day on the job, was cool and collected as he handled questions from the media and mourned a fallen colleague.
Just 11 days ago, I was with 3,000 people at a synagogue in Denver for a memorial service for those who died in Pittsburgh during a Sabbath service.
We are in a cycle of violence where the victims are truly innocent and where we are consuming the best of our citizens as if they were human sacrifices.
Where will it all end?
• Editor Henry Dubroff can be contacted at [email protected]