I Took My Daughter to an Amusement Park. Then a Shooting Happened

My mentality strikes hard chords of memory as I anticipate and feel excitement. As an adult, it is nostalgic to go with them and experience a nostalgic feeling. It’s been too long since I and my sister had the opportunity to go to Great America, the amusement park in Gurnee, Illinois, during our teen years in the ’90s. Going to Six Flags was a part of my life since I was a kid.

However, on August 14, a new memory will always be etched in my memory.

The scent of funnel cake and the sound of joyful screams filled the air, accompanied by lengthy queues and bustling crowds. It was a fairly ordinary day. However, at the eleventh hour, I made the choice to accompany them despite my initial reluctance. On that particular day, I brought my 12-year-old daughter and her companion to the park.

We could try catching a different ride on our way out, and I told the girls that I didn’t want to wait because there was a delay. Suddenly, the ride stopped running for a few minutes. After a few minutes, we jumped in line for the last ride on Flight X, just before it closed.

As we left the queue, a young person in front of me turned and said, “I believe there’s a gunfire.”

“Continue advancing.” Maintain your concentration. “Observe your environment. We found ourselves amidst the park, and the exit appeared quite distant. I presumed that a mass shooting was unfolding. I instructed the young ladies to remain united and sprint, emphasizing the urgency to reach our vehicle as swiftly as possible. Amidst the chaos and tumultuous situation.”

In my gut, I was definitely going into a mode of freezing, fighting, or fleeing. I had no idea what the best reaction was, but the truth is, I was trying to keep moving. We had no choice but to exit, so when my daughter said, “exit?” We ran.

I didn’t know there was a parking lot, so I drove out of the lot until I finally reached the girls on the floor and told them to get to the car. Some people were still talking on their phones while standing, and others were hiding behind buildings or running. It was very intense and frightening, but we managed to make our way towards the exit.

On our drive out, we passed several police cars already in the parking lot and more making their way to the scene.

“We will arrive at our residence in twenty minutes. We are safe. An incident involving gunfire occurred. I contacted my spouse and informed him as soon as we entered the expressway.”

The trip back was brimming with anxiety. The girls were scared, upset, and concerned about the welfare of other people at the park.

“There were numerous families present and young children,” expressed my daughter’s acquaintance. “I trust that no individuals were harmed.”

Upon arriving home, my daughter immediately asked her father, “Can we acquire a firearm?”

Existing in an era of growing incidents of mass shootings

Two people were treated for injuries at a nearby hospital after a car drove into the parking lot near the front entrance, shooting three exiting individuals. It was an incident that targeted the parking lot, but it was not an active shooter event. This information is based on the initial investigation from the Gurnee Police Department.

According to Shawn Gaylor, a detective specializing in crime prevention at the Gurnee Police Department, “unfortunately, this incident occurred in a location where families come to enjoy a good time, relax, and have a place where there is no regard for shooters and targeted incidents.”

Six weeks ago, a tragic mass shooting occurred during a July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois, where I live, a few towns away. Several people were injured and seven lives were lost. The parade in our town was canceled due to the shooter being on the loose, just as my daughter and I were getting ready to attend.

I am wondering how this year, in May, the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in addition to two close incidents near our home, might have affected all children, including my kids, growing up in these times.

Tamar Mendelson, PhD, the director of the Adolescent Health Center at Johns Hopkins University, states that “those who are exposed closely are most affected by the acute effects, and if you are removed from the situation, it becomes a bit less distressing to hear about the news. It’s not as traumatic as being in the building where it took place, but it’s still upsetting if something happens in your town.”

However, she said that children’s awareness of the threat and danger in their environment is shaped by people or social media, as well as news about gun violence and mass shootings.

According to Mendelson, some kids may focus more on others and feel more anxious than others. There are differences among them. They need to find ways to protect themselves because the world can be a more dangerous place, and it can shape children’s perceptions.

One of Gaylor’s goals is to make kids aware of the potential dangers of active shooter drills and safety plans in schools, without alarming them.

I’m constantly trying to figure out how to make this environment safe for our kids in schools, without inundating them with too much safety information and precautions that they get scared to live their lives.

According to an analysis of data from a mass shooter database kept by Project Violence, there were more mass shootings in the half-decade leading up to 1966 than in any other period. The statistics drive the need for police officers like Gaylor to continue preparing and informing the public, especially children.

“Similar to how one would conduct a tornado drill or fire drill, conducting drills for school shootings is expected to become a regular occurrence in society. This notion is both disheartening and frightening to contemplate,” expresses Gaylor. She believes that people will eventually become accustomed to these drills, but acknowledges that it is challenging for younger children to grasp the potential for school shootings in light of this harsh reality.

In order to get ready, we will need to carry on with this as a community and society. The most important lesson, however, was that I participated and gained a wealth of knowledge. I happened to be at Great America when my town’s police department organized a seminar on how to handle an active shooter situation, just 10 days after the incident.

Persistent exposure to aggression

Chicago had 1,885 shootings throughout the end of August and the beginning of the year. I also experienced a profound sadness for people living in communities constantly exposed to violence. In the days following the Great America event, I continued to reflect on those who survived the shootings and the lives lost to mass shootings.

Mendelson states, “For many young people in the country, it is not uncommon to hear about shootings, but rather to experience day-to-day violence in their own communities.”

She emphasizes that the neglect of regular problems occurs when an excessive attention is directed towards them, which contributes to the disregard for mass shootings. Although the emphasis on mass shootings holds significance.

Mendelson asserts, “They have witnessed and undergone numerous incidents of gun violence.” “A significant number of youths feel ignored in their encounters, and a substantial portion feel desensitized to it.” “There exists a considerable population of young individuals who are raised in persistently distressing surroundings, yet they are not receiving the proper recognition they merit.”

Their views on school and the world are also adversely affected. She further mentions that children who experience shootings are vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mendelson states, “Symptoms of PTSD may never show in some individuals and may emerge later, while others may not exhibit signs and may only have symptoms for a brief period of time after an event, especially young people.”

How to communicate with children about violent occurrences

In order to prevent imposing their emotional encounter onto their children, Gina Moffa, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, suggests that adults should initially manage their own emotions before engaging in discussions with children regarding distressing occurrences.

She asserts that by enabling individuals to share their emotional experiences, they can be helped in a sincere manner to overcome a state of panic and fear. It is crucial to address these events with children by reassuring them honestly, ensuring their safety, and letting them know that you are in control and that they are currently in a secure environment.

She recommended asking them any questions they may have, so that they can feel more comfortable voicing their concerns and getting information from the news or social media, which can heighten the intensity and create a turning point for traumatic stress or anxiety.

Mendelson concurs and emphasizes the importance of engaging in open dialogues with children in a peaceful manner.

She states, “However, being truthful is significant. It’s acceptable to recognize that something truly dreadful occurred and something was frightening.” “The key is ensuring that we’re not delving into further intricacy or difficulty beyond what is appropriate for their growth and age.”

It was frightening how we talked about it. Well, I told the girls that I was proud of them for being brave and listened to me. After about 15 minutes in the car, I felt a sense of calmness take over me.

In this world, there is more good. In this world, there is much bad, especially during the quietest moment on my ride home, I told them.

If I wondered, in the days after I said it, how serious a problem this sentiment could become, I truly feel how optimistic this person generally is, as a sugar coating could come across.

Mendelson states, “and we, as parents, cannot protect our children from all the bad things and know that there are ways to teach them joyful things and maintain a balance. We also acknowledge that we share our views of the world with them.”