2/15/19 – The Day We All Became “Aurora Strong”
Once Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day festivities fade out, the city of Aurora faces a very tough anniversary.
It was three years ago today that five employees were killed after a disgruntled worker opened fire inside the Henry Pratt Company. Five Aurora police officers were injured. Aurora was thrown into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
We learned that the families of Russ Beyer of Yorkville, Vincente Juarez of Oswego, Clayton Parks of Elgin, Josh Pinkard of Oswego, and Trevor Wehner of Sheridan had changed forever. In the days following the Henry Pratt shooting Aurora did what it always does and always will do. It stepped up to help those who needed it. Whether you offered prayers, a shoulder, an ear, a kind word or money to help these families rebuild, it was another reminder of how great the people of this area are when the rubber meets the road.
At the radio station, we gave updates, we scrambled to see what we would do. One week later we held a 13-hour live broadcast dubbed “The Heroes Radiothon” at Luigis, the site of the center of the police response to the shooting, to raise money and spirits for the families effected. It was a day I’ll never forget filled with incredibly touching moments that showed the humanity of everyone involved.
Like when Gina Ruzika sang Amazing Grace
Or when a 10-year-old started the SWAG group at school (Students Who Are Great) and raised money selling Aurora Strong t-shirts?
Or the time someone dropped a $1,000 tip during a fundraiser at Gillerson’s in downtown Aurora?
Or this powerful moment when Mitch Michaels talked with the daughter of Vicente Juarez.
The Aurora Strong movement was, and is, an amazing showing of a community coming together to care for their own and I was damn proud to play a small roll. We raised about $6,000. Ballydoyle held a huge fundraiser that raised close to $100K. Restaurant tip jars and collection plates across the area were filled to the brim to help out these five families, and it’s nearly impossible to put a number on it all. But really, that number doesn’t matter. What matters is that in spite of our differences, when it comes down to it, we help our own. We have each others’ back.
Let this be a reminder that the state of our society, while frustrating at times, really isn’t that bad after all.
An In Memoriam ceremony will take place today at the Aurora Historical Society and will be live streamed on the city’s Facebook page.