The mass shooting that took place in Aurora on Friday, Feb. 15 generated an emotional response from a wide range of people. Five lives were lost in the workplace shooting, spurred on by the firing of a long-time employee of Henry Pratt Co. Despite the fact that the event took place in Aurora, multiple students here at Oswego High School were affected due to personal connections.
Freshman Sydney Wiencek is someone who was personally impacted by the shooting that occurred just 14 minutes from OHS. Wiencek’s father is one of the officers who responded to the emergency. His job was to simply direct the other responders, but when he saw how dire the situation was, he decided to join them in protecting those trapped inside.
Throughout the situation, Wiencek’s family had no way of confirming the status of her father other than what the news had been reporting live. The family later came to find out that he was physically unharmed, while some of his friends were not so lucky. These friends were not only close to her father, but close with her entire family, showing the close bond the first responders have with one another.
“Eventually he came home safe, but his friends were seriously injured; [they were] people I grew up with,” Wiencek said.
The incident not only distracted her mentally, but hindered Wiencek’s ability to focus on school, as family comes first to her.
“I was so upset thinking about what could have happened to my dad and how it would take him a while to be OK [mentally]. I thought about all the people that were shot, and their families. School was the last thing on my mind,” Wiencek said.
For those who did not have a personal connection to this tragedy, Wiencek wants everyone to know that a shooting like this impacts a wide range of people, not just the ones who first come to mind. She expressed gratitude when explaining how the police department had a psychologist come in to aid the officers, which she described as “very helpful” in beginning the process of recovering.
Wiencek feels this serious event really brought the issue of gun violence into perspective for many in the surrounding area.
“You never really expect it to happen to you [or someone you know] until it does. That really made me realize how unsafe everything is, although I just think about all the good people, like the officers who saved so many people, or the teachers who don’t joke when it comes to drills,” Wiencek said.
A former OHS student, who has since transferred to a nearby school, was close with the first responders to this tragedy. The alumnus, who wishes to remain anonymous due to department policies prohibiting the discussion of events, is involved in the Aurora Fire Department and was assigned to the ambulance duty on the day of the shooting. He was designated to be with a backup ambulance to aid the rest of the city in case anyone else had an emergency.
Ultimately, when the true severity of the scene was recognized, as many ambulances as possible were sent to the scene to tend to any victims. The alumnus did end up aiding in the treatment of a victim, focused on contributing in any way possible. For many, this tragic shooting brought a national issue closer to home.
“It just opens your eyes to the world as it is becoming,” he said.
Henry Pratt Co., the location in which the shooting occured, is located close to many schools in Aurora, being just four minutes away from West Aurora High School and three minutes from Waubonsee Community College. During the shooting, all surrounding schools went into lockdown due to the unknown whereabouts of the shooter for a period of time.
The anonymous source has trust in the emergency response systems in place and feels that the surrounding people are well protected. “Nobody should have to feel scared to go to school everyday,” he emphasized.
For him, this event shows just how crucial it is to be informed on how to best handle emergency situations like mass shootings.
“Always have your eyes in the back of your head,” he said.
This tragedy also inflicted strong feelings in students of OHS who did not have specific connections to the shooting. Specifically, the threat of an active shooter so close to OHS brings up questions about the strength of our lockdown procedures. Sophomore Josie Diaz feels that the school would benefit from taking the drills a step further by physically doing actions, like barricading and evacuating.
“I think we do a good job bringing awareness to bring prepared for emergencies, yet the drills we do aren’t realistic and we only talk about what we’d do, rather than doing it,” Diaz said.
Diaz also mentions a clear shift between how different teachers handle lockdown drills.
“My feeling of safety definitely changes depending on what class I’m in, and how prepared the teacher seems,” Diaz said.
This tragic event highlights the importance of preparation for emergency situations, such as an active shooter. For the safety of all involved, continue familiarizing yourself with emergency procedures and actively participate during lockdown drills at school.