Last Thursday, Mary Kay Mace marked the 11th anniversary of her daughter’s death in a shooting spree at Northern Illinois University on February 14, 2008.
On Friday, she learned of a workplace shooting that claimed multiple lives not far from NIU’s campus in a manufacturing plant in Aurora.
On Sunday evening, she stood in the bitter cold near the Henry Platt Co. manufacturing business with a message for victims’ families and survivors of the shooting.
“In time, you will be able to move forward again,” Mace said.
A former employee killed five people Friday after he was fired from his job, authorities said. Gary Martin injured six more people — five of whom were law officers — before police killed him.
Mace was one of several speakers to offer comfort to the suburban Chicago community at two vigils on Sunday. Members of the community joined the victims’ families to remember the victims and pray for peace.
Per the city’s estimate, more than 1,700 people withstood freezing rain at the first gathering to remember Clayton Parks, Trevor Wehner, Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez and Josh Pinkard.
City officials and faith leaders also offered prayers for the injured and first responders.
“To simply offer condolences is not enough — it doesn’t measure the amount of pain that we feel for the loss we’re experiencing in this community,” Mayor Richard Irvin said.
“Now is a time to heal. Now is a time to forgive. Now is a time to move together as a stronger community.”
Faith leaders from different congregations offered prayers on behalf of the victims’ and their families, including the injured.
“It’s a somber day, one that breaks all of our hearts,” said the Rev. Ed Doepel of Resurrection Church, which performed outreach services to the Aurora Police Department.
“To see what is happening to our great nation is disturbing to all of us as Americans. We cry out to you, Lord and we beseech your grace and mercy upon us all. Wipe away the fear that grips our hearts. Heal the tension and division that has emerged among us, Lord, and bring us together in love.”
Others urged the public to pray for employees who survived the 90-minute rampage. They may have witnessed the massacre and hid in terror from the gunshots, Spencer said, unsure if they would be next. They may be wondering what saved them.
“Will you help us, God, to celebrate even the lives that were saved by law enforcement, the lives that were saved by circumstances?” said the Rev. Julian E. Spencer of the Main Baptist Church of Aurora.
“Give them what they need to put the pieces together to continue to move forward and continue to transform this place out from a place of pain to a place of peace.”
Throughout the day, mourners left flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the plant, which included crosses for each of the five victims.
After the vigils, members of the community carried the crosses in a procession from the plant to the Aurora Police Department. After the second procession, the crowd entered the police station and greeted members of law enforcement with hugs and handshakes.
The timing of the Aurora plant shooting was a bitter reality for Mace and others affected by gun violence, on the day after the country marked the first anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in addition to the 11th anniversary of the shooting at NIU — which killed Mace’s 19-year-old daughter, Ryanne, and four other students.
She warned that the road ahead would not be easy.
“The heartache will often feel overwhelming, as will the confusing array of emotions and thoughts that things will never again feel right. Trauma will continue to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune moments,” she said.
“I’m here, though, as living proof to reassure you that it can all be survived.”
Another woman who spoke at the second vigil identified herself as a survivor of the NIU shooting. She said she hoped for a day when she would never again have to speak at a vigil related to gun violence.
“Eleven years have gone by and it keeps happening, and it’s so disheartening and so sad,” she said.
Addressing the victims’ families and survivors directly, she pledged to remember the dead as well as first responders. She reminded them they don’t have to struggle through grief alone, and offered the fellowship of the NIU survivor community.
“The media and people may move on, but we’re not going to move on. We’ll be here for you.”