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click to enlarge CHAD RAPER
  • Chad Raper

As a weekly newspaper, the Independent's role has been to take a longer view on news. As an alternative publication with deep community roots, our role has always been to listen for the local perspectives that are being ignored. The Planned Parenthood shooting brings us a new responsibility, one that we embrace without hesitation: Show the world our community is more than the national news we make. That means we acknowledge our truths, while simultaneously rejecting the stereotypes that result when they are lazily simplified. The voices collected here, from Facebook and letters we've received, show the local frustration but also counter recent national media characterizations. And they prove that our differences don't diminish the strength of our community. — Carrie Simison and Vanessa Martinez

'Double down on your commitment to this community'

In an interview with Krista Tippett, vulnerability expert Brené Brown contended that "our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted." Or, more simply put, we cannot truly experience the joy and lightness of being without also experiencing the moments of darkness and despair.

Today, I experienced both in equal measure.

This morning, I purchased a house in Colorado Springs, signifying my investment in and commitment to my own future and the future of this community. I was elated, exuberant ... for almost an hour.

And then the reports, the text messages, the tweets tumbled in, and for the second time in the last month, my heart broke wide open.

I know that we all grapple with grief in unique ways, that it's impossible to predict which words, which actions, will begin to allow the light to enter into the darkness. I'm still not sure that what I most want to say will bring healing to anyone, anywhere. But I do know that Audre Lorde was right: My silence, your silence, our silence will not protect us, and bitter denunciations and diatribes will not attenuate our communal pain.

I also know this: It is a tremendous privilege to be able to double down on my commitment to Colorado Springs on one of its darker days. Given the chance to start the day over and make new decisions, knowing everything that I know now, I would buy that house again. And again. And again.

I want to be part of changing both the narrative and the reality of this community. I want to stand beside my neighbors, friends, colleagues and family in compassion and wholeheartedness, and build — together — a city that sets aside petty political or ideological differences to say, Not here. Not anywhere. Not now. Not ever.

Although this unity won't come easily, the evidence of possibility in the aftermath of today's tragedy is heartening. Not a single person in my life or on my social media feeds has expressed anything other than unmitigated, unqualified sorrow and solidarity.

In this tender place of pain, we have an opportunity, a responsibility, to restore safety and peace. To mourn, to dwell in our shared despair and to risk again. To heal what's broken, and to uncover the sacred and fertile space of common ground. To plant only those things that will flourish and thrive and serve us, and to discard the rest.

We are in uncharted territory. There is no roadmap to solace, and the process of finding our way will be like us: messy and human.

And maybe it's just a reflection of my own experience today, but I offer a recommendation for how to start: In some way, no matter how small, double down on your commitment to this community. Take a chance. Use your voice, or your hands, or your heart.

Because if Brené is right, when we are unwilling to risk anything, we risk everything.

— Kristy Milligan

'I won't be part of the inertia and indifference.'

In the wake of six deaths and numerous injuries from the shootings at Planned Parenthood and in the downtown area, many of us are asking, What can be done?

Surely we are intelligent and capable enough to place safeguards against the recurrence of this horrible violence. Surely we can stop it through reasonable gun laws and mental-health outreach. Surely the gun lobby and the NRA can acknowledge that no one is safe in America any more and take steps to end the escalation of violence all over America.

After the horror of Columbine, Sandy Hook and too many other instances to name, the thought was, surely the American people with all their intelligence and know-how will put an end to the too-easy availability of guns, put pressure on politicians to enact gun laws, ensure more mental-health outreach, and end the inertia, the smothering indifference of "life goes on."

But no, we haven't addressed this blatant situation effectively at all.

The answer is not to arm teachers and citizens. That only increases violence. Many Americans would probably object to [banning guns altogether], so what other options do we have?

Nicholas Kristof, in The New York Times on Oct. 3, wrote:

"Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution ... smarter gun policies could reduce murder rates by up to 50 percent — and that's thousands of lives a year. Right now, the passivity of politicians is simply enabling shooters."

How can we work together to ensure the safety of everyone in our community against this senseless gun violence? I write this letter because it is heartbreaking to see this yet again. I won't be part of the inertia and indifference that say concerned citizens can't do much. I am asking that we come together as a community and find ways to make our community safe.

— Onorina Vedovi-Rinker

'We are more than violence, despair, extremism.'

Whether it was Black/White/Red Friday, its din roared to a deafening level. Yet many spoke eloquently on the Good in our community: We are more than violence, despair, extremism. I was reminded of the Desiderata: "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, remember what peace there may be in silence. ... Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. ... And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul."

— Luke Cammack

'When the fear is loud we can only win by being louder.'

Today I saw a young couple begging for handouts in 15 degrees and unceasing snow.

Today I updated the live feed again and again and again, waiting to hear that the insane gunman at the women's health clinic had been at last detained.

Today my husband and I took our children and our mothers to see The Nutcracker ballet. And when I could stop scanning the audience for a shooter, the performance was beautiful.

Today I watched the snow fall all day and built a fire, and felt the real fire in my gut and my eyes and my heart.

Today I took solace in the love and words and wisdom of my family and friends, and it was not enough. It was not enough to counter the madness of the clinic gunman or the hate speech of a leading presidential candidate or the hunger of those who are afraid and cold.

But it was something. It was better than nothing. It was better than falling silent by cruel chance, and it was better than falling silent by cruel choice. And however unrealistic it is, I will not stop saying:

More love.

More hope.

More peace.

When the fear is loud we can only win by being louder.

When the hate is palpable we can only win by holding love stronger.

None of this is new. Everyone who is wiser than I am, and they are legion, has already said it. But hate and fear, they repeat themselves — again and again and again. And so love and hope, they must be sung again and again and again and again. They must be danced and shouted and wept and written and painted.

This isn't about who has the most ammo. It's about who has the most breath.

So I am taking yet another deep breath. And as long as I have breath, this is what I have to say:

More love. More hope. More peace. With our hands and our voices and our callusing feet.

In the end, there's really no other work to be done.

— Ann Davenport

click to enlarge UCCS Officer Garrett Swasey was one of three victims who died. - COURTESY UCCS
  • Courtesy UCCS
  • UCCS Officer Garrett Swasey was one of three victims who died.

'Our daily actions are the lights that shine in the darkness.'

My heart is broken for my home. Our recent tragedies twist my insides. But a quote from Mayor John Suthers at one of the vigils reminded me that light shines brightest in the darkness — that heroism and courage outshine madness and hate: "This tragedy won't define our community, but the heroism of our first responders and the heroism of Garrett Swasey are what defines our community."

I was reminded that heroism and courage are not always as obvious as running into a gunfight; sometimes they are subtle — a genuine smile or a kind word.

I was reminded that it is our daily interactions, the thousand little moments of our day, that define the character of this city: our choice to react to each other, with our clients and colleagues and with friends and family, out of encouragement and respect; our choice to respond to those who disagree with us with a desire to discover truth, rather than blind anger; our choice to meet strangers with the warmth of friendship.

Our daily actions are the lights that shine in the darkness, and together make us an authentic, compassionate and courageous community worthy of the sacrifice of brave men like Garrett Swasey.

— Mattie Albert

'Be a part of the solution.'

Dear broader world: Colorado Springs is not just a hotbed for right-wing extremism.

It is a city filled with art and music. It is a community of beautiful people who are committed to its success and well-being. It is a city of entrepreneurs and innovators. It is a city with the most gorgeous landscapes.

It is also a city in need of what we all need: deep civil dialogue and healing about the pain in us (and the stigmatization of that pain) that expresses itself in violence toward the other.

If you live in the Springs or elsewhere, help be a part of a broad movement toward conversation about hard topics. Be a part of spreading love and light. Be a part of the solution. Do this in community. Talk to people you don't understand. Find ways to encourage reconciliation and not further division.

Be human. Be present where you're at. Dig deep into the soil and soul of your community.

And make space for people to be open and honest about their hurt and pain. Only as we confront our own brokenness can we be a part of the healing process for others.

— Candace Datz

'Peace calms the beast.'

Deep within the heart of every human being, a caged beast of violence rages to be free.

Last Friday we saw a man with a gun let his mad animal out, and — with a hunger for violence, a thirst for blood — kill three people, injure nine others, and for more than four hours terrorize a city still recovering from the last mass shooting.

And why? Why couldn't he control himself? Why did he wrongly believe that letting the animal run wild, feeding on the innocent, would be good?

Sadly, we may never know. Only the mad understand such madness. But this much is clear: Peace calms the beast — and saves lives.

Therefore, be peaceful. Abhor violence. And pray that one day soon we all may know peace at heart.

— Ryan Macoubrie

'Scheme of ways to commit retaliating acts of kindness.'

Over this long Thanksgiving weekend, my town was again terrorized, by a sick and violent man who decided to shoot up a Planned Parenthood and at the police officers who were protecting innocent citizens inside and out. I feel heartbroken, helpless, angry and confused. These terroristic acts do not represent the values of the community that I know and love.

Colorado Springs is a place of beauty, largely because it is abundant with loving, caring and creative people who thrive here. So many people that I have the privilege of knowing are deserving of the headline news every single day due to heroic acts of kindness and selfless service to our community.

While I am aware that it pales in comparison to the terrorism that so many in our world face every day, it is petrifying that we are so often the target of domestic terrorism. Whether it's a maniac lighting a match in a dry, brittle field or a maniac unloading an AK-47, the terror is commensurable.

If I venture to read the comments section in any given article about the attacks, I get even more concerned. Not only for our little corner of the world, but for humanity in general. My mind and my heart both believe that the way to positively impact the world is through emanating kindness and compassion in all interactions, whether your interaction is with the heroes, the victims, the bystanders or the trolls.

This is a challenge to practice when you find yourself wondering if your will is up-to-date before opening the front door to step outside. For the first time since the attack, I'm going to shake the fear, take these puffy eyes outside, and scheme of ways to commit retaliating acts of kindness.

— Alison B. Jones

'Very proud of the efforts of our law enforcement'

Let us make no mistake: Today, in our HOME — in our city — a lunatic decided to test our love, to test our strength. My heart is broken for the lost lives and the injured. I am so very proud of the efforts of our law enforcement. They were able to talk the man into a surrender. That is amazing in skill. We have survived fire, flood and crazies — and our first responders have broken the mold of response and dedication every time. I AM COLORADO SPRINGS PROUD!

— Nikki Ricciardi

"They said virtually nothing and added nothing."

I am angry and embarrassed by the Black Friday siege of Planned Parenthood. Sure, I'm angry that yet another right-wing whack-job got his hands on a lethal weapon. (But hey, we're all used to that by now, right? Besides, the NRA tells us it's all in the name of protecting our constitutional rights!) But I'm also embarrassed — embarrassed and furious about the (lack of) empathy shown by our local leaders and politicians, and by their utter unwillingness and inability to articulate the outrage this sort of tragedy represents to our community and our country.

The Colorado Springs Police Department's press briefings were farcical, doing nothing more than sanitizing the flow of information to the point that it became useless and meaningless. As a result, the most useful and timely information was apparently gleaned through social media. Even worse, with nothing to say and nothing to add, our police chief, fire chief, mayor and district attorney (who I guess is NOT really bound by the ethics that govern other attorneys) all stumbled over themselves to make the most of their minute of fame in front of the national media. But they said virtually nothing and added nothing, choosing instead the path of self-promotion as they showered praise on the performance of our local public-safety personnel.

Now don't get me wrong. It appears the CSPD did a great job. And the selfless bravery and sacrifice of UCCS Officer Garrett Swasey, and the other CSPD officers, in trying to assist and save the lives of other victims and potential victims, stand as examples for us all. But, did you notice? Hardly any mention was made or attention paid to the other innocent victims (Ke'Arre Stewart and Jennifer Markovsky) who were so unfortunate as to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And of course, no mention was made of the plight of Planned Parenthood, which has endured a state of siege in this country for years now, having to build "safe rooms" and stockpile bullet-proof vests for the protection of its doctors, employees and patients.

You would think our mayor might choose to use just a minute of his new-found "face time" to condemn the right-wing militia groups, domestic terrorists and evangelists who promote this sort of behavior and visit this sort of tragedy upon our community. Or might that cost him too many votes?

— Stuart W. McKinlay

'Clashing views blind our hearts of our shared humanity.'

When we are thoughtful, kind, caring and accepting we move past our harsh criticisms of differing opinions and aim for a common bond. We unite. We are all too human to assume others' experiences and what has shaped our understanding of the world.

So many clashing views blind our hearts of our shared humanity.

I don't want to live passively, but I do want to listen more than I speak. Care more than I cut. I adore my Colorado Springs community, and I want so terribly to bring us together rather than push us farther apart.

Thank you to the ones who came to the vigil. I felt your hearts, and that overpowered my own panic. Today I sang "Amazing Grace" with all my heart, and I wasn't ashamed I knew every note and word. As Nori [Rost] so eloquently said, it's that grace that should move us to action. #Iheartcos.

— Sarah Musick

click to enlarge Mayor Suthers and CSFD Chief Riley address the media at the scene. - TRAVIS LOWELL
  • Travis Lowell
  • Mayor Suthers and CSFD Chief Riley address the media at the scene.

'A community to be proud of and stand up for'

#MyCOS I was born here, under these mountains, boundless blue skies, sunsets and vibrant four seasons. I have moved away several times, seeking something new, different — better. I always come back to this quirky small, big town. I raised my child here and have the privilege of enjoying four generations here.

This place is not perfect. Yet, from my purview it is bursting with artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, activists, community-builders, spiritual teachers, environmentalists, and so many veteran and new visionaries working to bring people together around their commonalities and not divide around our differences.

To me, it's a community to be proud of and stand up for. I choose it through and through.

— Amber Cote

‘Like a killing field’

Season’s Greetings from the new domestic terrorist mecca of America. Two holidays this season, two mass shootings. Both carried out by what are described as deranged, long-gun-toting, conservative-fundamentalist ideologues who indiscriminately shot at ordinary citizens in cold calculation. Citizens simply engaged in normal daily activities, like riding a bicycle, sitting on the front porch or merely parking a car at a strip mall.

In both cases, there was a shootout with the police. The current count is seven dead (five ordinary citizens, one policeman and one terrorist), nine wounded, one in jail. I am using the term “citizens” because the now-common term used, civilians, suggests we are in a war zone, where there are either combatants or non-combatants. I see something else: terrorists attempting to pull all of us into war with each other.

What amazes me is not the use of war terms toward casualties, but the silent denial that domestic terrorism is alive and well in Colorado Springs — Planned Parenthood and Halloween (2015), and New Life Church/CO YWAM in 2007.

All told, 10 killed, 14 wounded plus two dead domestic terrorists. The International Security Program, a research institute for the news industry, states that since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has had twice as many persons killed by what are described as white supremacists, anti-government fanatics or other non-Muslim extremists, than by radical Muslims. The count since the Charleston, S.C., massacre last summer was 48 killed by non-Muslims compared to 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists. That count now will be increased by six killed in Colorado Springs, over the past four weeks!

Even more amazing are the actions by our local (and national) leaders, as an almost universal denial that these recent mass killings are indeed domestic terrorism. It is as if they are trying to wash away the reality that radical right-wing reactionary, apocalypse-conjuring rhetoric does not lead to indiscriminate cultural violence on ordinary citizens.

On the other hand, many of those same leaders and their news apologists seem to fight over each other seeking attention whenever a foreign terrorist attack occurs, often screaming for an immediate military response and to go to a world war.

My family lives here. On the Saturday morning of the Halloween massacre, I was walking our dog in another part of Shooks Run Park, a mere couple blocks from Platte Avenue where that shooting spree took place. Last Friday, I happened to be picking up a few items at the other west-side King Soopers, just down Mesa Road from Planned Parenthood’s shootout.

Both days I was simply leading an ordinary life in this once-placid town of Colorado Springs. Now I have to be on the lookout for any and all deranged middle-aged white men who are political or religious extremists, who feel free to be toting their long-guns and about to make a violent political statement. The math teacher in me holds that this is on the verge of becoming a mathematical sequence, where the odds are that another tragedy might occur this coming Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

The Guardian newspaper describes this city as the “playground for pro-life, pro-gun, evangelical Christians.” I think it is becoming something other than a playground, more like a killing field. That headline might be insulting to some, but the math is leading us to a new reality, where it is not so safe to go out on routine activities around holidays anymore, for it appears to be a terrorist war zone.

— Bob Nemanich

‘Glock, Colt and Winchester now rule the land’

Colorado Springs has had another random act of violence that kills citizens on the street. Veterans survive wars and come home to die in a civilized country by gunshot.

How does the Islamic State radicalize people to kill and do barbaric acts? Colorado Springs now knows and has an encounter with a radicalized terrorist, in a sick person with easy access to weapons and bombs.

Twisted belief systems governed by the gods of Glock, Colt and Winchester now rule the land. This is pure capitalism, where profits are cherished before life. Where the right to carry death devices is cherished more than life. The violent rhetoric of the religions’ self-righteous who want to take over the government, the same dream shared by Islamic State and the Radical Right Religious in America, want to enforce religious law over the land.

This is not religion, it is political control issues to take over democracy.

Colorado Springs is the Wild West, with gunslingers walking the streets in this town. Two mass shootings in two months. Six people are dead in this town that shouts Pro Life and Pro Gun, which is an oxymoron and hypocritical. If you are pro-life, how can you possibly be pro-gun? A gun is a weapon of mass destruction — ask the people who have been shot. Pro-life and pro-gun means you are for your life only at the cost of all those around you. If you carry a gun, you are committed to use it and committed to kill.

The pretext of the self-righteous “anti-abortion movement” is about women being controlled and being possessions of men as vessels of the man’s fetuses. The women have no say; they are just vessels. If you disagree, then why is it that once the baby is born, the self-righteous view them as moving targets for their guns and execution. If you are truly pro-life, you are also against war, executions and guns that take lives. If you are pro-life, you never destroy a life.

— Nard Claar

‘What made him snap?’

Robert Dear. People say he snapped, but that’s too easy a term. How many times had he previously been on the verge of “snapping,” of opening fire.

How many neighbors and passersby had narrowly avoided the same kind of violence in the recent past?

What made him snap, the holidays? Had he just been looking for somebody to shoot for some time? Was it a reach to think he would choose one of any number of social flashpoints to pick a reason, and targets? Should he have been able to freely buy guns or should that threshold be a little higher?

Did he snap like a rubber band, or was he already broken, and obviously so.

I’m sad for the people who are going through this horror, trying to think of life without their loved one, and trying not to think about the terror they just went through, and their final moments.

I’m sad for my city. It always seemed like just the right size. Big enough to be interesting but still have aspects of a small town. Now it’s another city trying to help families who don’t want to wake up in this newly horrific world, and don’t want to go to sleep for fear of another night’s distance from having those lost loved ones still around.

— Max Clow

‘Where is the humanity?’

Shame on our city and county leaders who don’t have the “will” to do anything about the white terrorist gun nuts by continuing to allow the insanity of open carry in this community!

Then we have Darryl Glenn, who doesn’t want to allow Syrian refugees into Colorado Springs. Those folks have risked everything to escape terrorists, so I hardly think they would even want to move here!

Where are all these Christian folks who keep electing these people? Where is the humanity, not to mention morality, right here in Colorado Springs?

I hoped my anger over Friday’s terrorist attack by an old white guy would be abated by attending the vigil at the Unitarian church, but to no avail ... and what was he protesting? Women’s health, abortions? So let’s go out and kill police officers and innocent people, and let’s celebrate NRA Day!

Then I read Rep. Doug Lamborn’s reply to the shooting, stating he is “sorry Obama politicized his comments towards gun violence in this country.” Really, Doug? So are terrorism and gun nuts political?

Until we get rid of people who supposedly represent “us” and incite idiots who worship guns, there seems to be little hope. This is like treating cancer with a Band-Aid!

— Elaine Brush

‘That is not my community’

Before I moved to Colorado Springs, of course I knew all the stereotypes. That it’s a super conservative military town full of crazy religious nuts. I knew Focus on the Family was here. I still have friends in other towns who laugh and mock and say they “hate it” when they have never even visited me.

I went in with an open mind because I was so burned from Chicago. I could never find a good job in the Midwest, all of my friends in the city seemed surface at best, and my anxiety level was at an all-time high (hello therapy). I was ready for a change. I was excited about living in a state I had never even visited.

It has now been over three years since I moved here and I can say, without a doubt, that I am so much happier living in Colorado Springs than I ever was in Chicagoland. I have made, and continue to make, the most amazing friendships. People I can truly count on. Friends who are so incredibly kind and giving. Friends who have brought out the optimist in me. Friends who own their own businesses and are working hard to continue to build this community that I am proud to say I belong to.

But I won’t lie. I feel conflicted, especially at times like these. Where I am brought face-to-face with the fact that this city extends past the creative downtown and west side. That there are large areas of this city full of hateful people who use religion as a weapon. People who are afraid of that which they don’t know or don’t understand; and they have unfettered access to weapons designed only to kill. And when we tried to introduce laws to prohibit this easy weapon access after the deadly attack in Aurora, these same people recalled the senator who dared to make their own community safer.

So when every single news article out there paints my city as a haven of Wild West guns and religion-based hatred, I feel torn. Because there are pockets where this is true. And I hate that. And I don’t know how to change it. But that is not my community. Those pockets of the city do not represent me or a large number of people (including my friends) who are trying to make Colorado Springs even better.

I have seen this city blossom with small businesses in the past three years. I have seen so many positive changes and I know, deep down, they will continue. I doubt the military will pull out of this city, nor will any of the churches leave.

But I know that this community of young and old, who believe in equality, who believe in kindness, who continue to spread a message of progress by way of their actions, will one day be what people think of when they think of Colorado Springs.

And I plan to continue to be a part of that push forward.

— Hailey Radvillas

click to enlarge HILLARY HEINTON
  • Hillary Heinton

‘#myColoradoSprings’

This is #MyColoradoSprings not what the media defines it as. #colroadosprings

— Hillary Heinton

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