Boulder Shooting Portraits: A survivor, a victim advocate and others reflect on the last year

Jen Douglas remembers the noise — shattering bangs — as the first shots were fired at a Boulder King Soopers a year ago today.

Craig Christopher’s memory is of the heartbreaking silence a few hours later as a group of people sat in a room, refreshing their phones and hoping for a call, a text or any word that a loved one who had gone to the store that day was safe .

Some of those calls never came.

Ten people died at the grocery store. Thousands more in the community have spent the last year trying to recover.

Douglas and Christopher are among 70 people connected to the shootings whose portraits are featured in an exhibit at the Museum of Boulder called “Boulder Strong: Still Strong, Remembering March 22, 2021.” The exhibit was created by photojournalist Ross Taylor to reflect the community’s pain and its healing.

Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner visited the museum recently, where he spoke to the photographer, along with Christopher and Douglas.


JenDouglas

Courtesy of Ross Taylor
Portrait of Jen Douglas

Jen Douglas went to the King Soopers that Monday afternoon to get her first COVID shot. Afterward, she shopped for a few minutes then went outside to wait for an Uber to take her to work. She was exchanging small talk with a store employee when they heard a series of loud bangs.

“They kind of felt like the earth was trembling underneath us. It just felt so visceral,” Douglas said.

The two women cowered against a wall as a victim fell in the parking lot and the gunman ran past them into the store. Then they fled to a nearby ice cream shop.

As she ran, the 22-year-old thought about the Uber driver who was on his way to get her. She texted him to stay away, but he made his way to her and took her home. Douglas doesn’t know the driver’s name, but she sat down one day and wrote him a note of gratitude: “You put yourself into unknown danger and took me home. I no longer remember your name, but you will forever be a hero in my eyes,” it reads. It has not yet been delivered.

When she got home that day, Douglas cried in her roommate’s arms, then called the police to tell them what she’d seen. She spent a few days at her parents’ house in Denver’s south suburbs and then returned to the University of Colorado for a heavy load of spring and summer classes towards her major in education.

The triggers, though, were everywhere: Fireworks sounded like gunshots. When she went out in public she looked for exit signs and mapped escape routes in her head, something she still finds herself doing.

Finally, she decided to take a gap year to recover. She often visits the Boulder Strong Resource Center, which was established by the city to provide counseling and other services, and she has a job in the Boulder Valley School District working with children.

“They’re like my serotonin boost every day,” she said. “They’re little gremlins, but I love them. … It gives me time to take a step back and focus on my self-healing and my self-care.”

.

Leave a Comment