Man, sometimes journalism is an arduous gig. We read and write gut-wrenching stories that occasionally test our mental fortitude. A college professor warned our class that we would someday know the victim involved in a tragic event. At the time, I didn’t heed her warning.

I was a stubborn sophomore and felt invincible. No way I’d know anyone who died too soon. Yeah, I understand that sounds silly, but that was my mindset as an 18-year-old who had little experience — at the time — with traumatic events. Years later, I received a similar message from an editor who followed with further explanation.

“You can be minding your business, doing what you’re supposed to be, and simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. Both of them were correct. I’ve lost count of the “RIP” posts or “Justice for (victim’s name)” chants from people I grew up and went to school with here in the Springs. Friends and former classmates ended up on T-shirts and lowered into the ground decades too soon. I recently received a double dose of that reality.

During the wee hours of June 17, a pair of shootings occurred here in the Southeast. Heidi Beedle, a Southeast Express reporter, reported that the first shooting happened around 12:20 a.m. at the 3800 block of East Pikes Peak Avenue. Officers in the area heard gunshots and bolted to the location. They found a woman with multiple gunshot wounds and performed life-saving measures. However, she died before advanced medical care could be administered. Every time one of these situations occurs, I’m fearful of this outcome. Panic sets in and I debate if I should check social media or just assume the worst.

I usually choose the former. After reading Beedle’s report, I checked Facebook hoping those dreadful, “Sending my condolences” posts didn’t appear. At first, my feed remained clear and I felt somewhat relieved. Loss of life, no matter who it is, is devastating. But it appeared I didn’t have a connection. However, an hour later, someone posted a photo of the victim saying, “RIP Beautiful.”My heart sank.

That was a photo of Gwen Watson; I know her husband and went to elementary and high school with her son. Those woeful RIPs suddenly littered my timeline as people shared kind messages to the victim’s family. As if that wasn’t enough, a few days after I learned my friend’s mom died, l discovered I knew the victim of the second shooting. The second homicide happened at the 7-11 at the Circle and Fountain intersection. According to a GoFundMe page created by Jas Grewal, the store’s manager, the victim attempted to defend the store’s clerk but was shot and killed during the skirmish.

The victim was Dominique Smith. We attended Gorman Middle School, now Pikes Peak Boces/School of Excellence. Smith also attended Sierra High School, was one hell of an athlete and graduated in 2008. He always had a positive spirit and was full of jokes. Now he’s dead. The pain I felt for their families, loved ones and anyone who experiences tragic loss reached new heights.

After I lost my dad in 2011, every phone call I receive — with no exception — delivers the momentary panic of, “Who is it this time?”It’s becoming the same when I read about shootings, homicides etc. in Colorado Springs. Any time I hear ambulance sirens or see one fly past me, I wonder: Do I know who’s inside? After moving on from my initial naivete as a college kid, I didn’t expect to know so many friends and loved ones who punched the clock of life this early.

I’ve learned to cope with the anguish —I’m not burying this pain; I discuss it — but I’d rather those friends and their families enjoy more time in this world. This isn’t the first time I’ve known a victim of a homicide and, sadly, it won’t be the last. Hopefully, we can cease the senseless violence and recognize the devastation it inflicts.

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Reporter

Marcus Hill is a reporter for the Southeast Express and Schriever Sentinel. He graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication.