After a mass shooting, economic and human resources are invested in the community to help victims and survivors overcome. As these incidents continue to develop, the intricate infrastructure that arises around them grows and becomes more sophisticated.
In early June, Sandy Phillips was driving a rented vehicle southbound, on I-95 from Washington, D.C. to Virginia Beach. She and her husband Lonnie generally had their bags packed with certain essentials, but this was a trip they had not planned to take.
"We have to stop to buy underwear and something else to spend the rest of the week," Phillips said with a smile. "But it's only part of what we do."RELATED
After learning about a mass shooting in a municipal building in Virginia Beach, the Phillips decided to travel there from Washington, where they had gone for an awards ceremony. Sandy calculated that it was the eleventh mass shooting they had been to.
"The first one we went to was five months after my daughter was killed in Aurora, at the movies … Then, five months later, Sandy Hook happened," he explained. "Since Sandy Hook, we have gone to almost every place where mass shootings have occurred."
When they arrived in Virginia Beach, the Phillips first went to the scene of the shooting to pay their respects and talk to the police. Then they went to a local center to meet with the survivors, although Sandy said people don't always want to talk to them.
“The first thing we always tell them is that we understand exactly what they feel because we have been in their place and that at this moment you don't even want to live. You just want to curl up and die, ”he said. "And that is part of the trauma you have suffered."
“We have become more sophisticated”
Sandy Phillips said a lot has changed since they started working with the survivors and advocating for gun control measures.
"Unfortunately, I think we have become more sophisticated in the way we respond, which is good, but sad, very sad, because that means our society is really fractured," said Sandy. "It also means that we have allowed this to redefine our country so that we are becoming good at responding to mass shootings and mass violence."
Philips themselves have become more sophisticated over the years. Now, in addition to providing comfort to survivors and connecting them with other survivors, they give advice on how to deal with reporters, what to do with social media harassment and how to detect scammers trying to make money from tragedy.
“We, here in Colorado, had to fight with the charity that was receiving all the money using our children's faces for donations, but they had no intention of getting that money to the victims and survivors,” said Sandy Phillips. "Those are the kind of things we see change and adapt."
The infrastructure in El Paso
In his role as president of the El Paso Community Foundation, Eric Pearson is working on the management and administration of donations after an armed man killed 22 people in a Walmart in August. Trying to determine how much money each person should receive can be complicated.
"There is no formula," Pearson said. “A good example would be to ask how serious is the injury? What does that mean for you in terms of lost wages? What does that mean for you in terms of medical care? What does that mean for you in terms of caring for your children? And so, each person has an individual set of needs that we are trying to deal with. ”
Pearson, however, is not the first person who has to deal with this problem. He has been consulting with community foundations that have managed funds after mass shootings in other states. The El Paso Community Foundation is also working with the National Compassion Fund, an organization to which the FBI has referred people if they want to donate to the victims of El Paso, but they are worried about the scams.
“That says something about who we are, that we have had to deal with so many mass shootings. But it is also comforting to know that people have been there. We are not walking blindly through the forest, ”he said. "There is a path in front of us and if we can find our part in that path, we can do the right thing for this community."
An evolving response
A group of therapy dogs, such as the golden retrievers that were in the city's memorial, at the baseball stadium, were taken by Lutheran Church Charities shortly after the shooting.
"They are comfort dogs, they live in Nebraska, Colorado and Texas," said Janice Marut, their trainer. “We've been to Orlando, Santa Fe, [Hurricane] Harvey, Sutherland Springs. I mean, after tornadoes, floods, fires – where they ask us to go. Unfortunately, too many shootings. ”
Therapy dogs have become a fixed element in the scene after mass shootings. But in El Paso, the Phillips also saw an organized group of people they had never seen before: dozens of trauma therapists who met with victims at the community center and in hospitals.
"So the people who had witnessed the shooting and were upset and had trouble breathing, just realized what had happened," said Sandy Phillips, "they could get help immediately. And that is what we have been preaching for seven years. ”
In fact, the work of those trauma therapists in El Paso is in line with a new project that the Phillips are working on: creating teams of survivors and therapists to go to communities after incidents such as mass shootings. They hope to become a pilot of the program in Colorado, where they killed their daughter.
Guns & America is a draft public media reports on the role of weapons in American life. Jonathan Levinson of Guns & America contributed to this story.
César Segovia He made the translation into Spanish and Maye Primera, the edition.
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