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Reflecting on the King Soopers Tragedy

Reflecting on the King Soopers Tragedy

Boulder Community Health (BCH) President & CEO Robert Vissers, M.D. provided an email reflection yesterday (March 23) to community members regarding the King Soopers tragedy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The waiting was so long and so painful.

I’m sure you felt that way, too. When would we know? When would we hear the names of the 10 victims?

Would we hear a friend’s name? A co-worker or neighbor? The parent of one of our children’s friends?

We got our answers this morning. For some of us, there was shock and disbelief. Then tears.

For most of us, there was initial relief, then profound sadness. Our community had been attacked, and 10 of us had perished. A community gathering place, the local grocery store, had been transformed into a crime scene.

There had been waiting yesterday, too, but it was different, filled with anticipation. The initial reports of gunfire had spurred everyone at BCH into action. People were being shot. They would need our help. Our Emergency Department, Surgery and ICU teams mustered their resources. Surgeons left their offices and hurried to Foothills. This moment was why we had become doctors and nurses. We would save these people. We were ready.

But the ambulances never came. The 10 victims died in the store. We couldn’t reach them. We couldn’t help them.

Eventually we stood down the ED, and we went home to work through our frustration and our anger and our sense of helplessness.

Today is a new day. People with illness and injury are coming to our clinics and hospital. We will give them the help they need. We also need to help each other.

The emotional impact of this tragedy will ripple through our community for months and maybe years. There are 10 local families facing heartache and uncertainty. Those of us who know them must do what we can to ease their burden.

There are brave police officers asking themselves why they couldn’t have responded quicker and done more to save lives. If you have the honor of knowing them, you must do what you can to ease their burden.

Many people were in King Soopers during the shooting, including some of our BCH family. They are struggling to process why others died and they were untouched. We must do what we can to ease their burden.

There are co-workers and friends who are overwhelmed by the random nature of this horrific violence. We have all been part of a community where these things don’t happen, until it did happen. We must do what we can to ease their burden.

The Community Foundation Boulder County, in partnership with the City of Boulder and several local faith communities, has established a fund to support the victims, their families and our community in dealing with and processing yesterday’s events.

The Boulder County Crisis Fund will support the needs of those directly affected and the needs of our community to heal from this horrendous event.

To support this important effort, please visit:

Sharna Ill, the BCH Spiritual Care manager, gave a reflection at a meeting this morning that deeply touched many of us. I want to end this message with Sharna’s reflection.

As I rounded last night, I saw people holding hands, staring without words at one another, listening to stories, speaking of their children and grandchildren, acknowledging the heaviness and weight of this sadness in the midst of the weariness that is the baseline throughout our community. These are senseless deaths and trauma. We are all flooded with grief deep in our bones.

Let’s take a moment of silence to honor the dead, their families, friends and all the people at King Soopers and beyond. Send our heart energy that is pulsing, crying, stunned, hard to reach. It is a thread of compassion, wrapped around each other and our community.


Dr. Robert Vissers
President and CEO, Boulder Community Health