Honoring the Lives Lost: Aurora Vigil

“It hurts.  It really hurts,” said Marcella Mardigal of her uncle’s death.  “He didn’t have to go this way.”

Marcella and her brother mourn the loss of their uncle Vicente Juarez, one of the five victims killed Friday at Henry Pratt Company in Aurora.  Juarez worked as a stockroom attendant and forklift operator for the company.

“He was an awesome guy.  We’ll remember him forever,” said Miguel Madrigal of his uncle.

The two joined the city and members of surrounding communities in a vigil today to remember those who were robbed of the rest of their lives.  In addition to Vicente Juarez, the other victims included: Russell Beyer, 47, of Yorkville, a rubber-mold operator;  human resources manager Clayton Parks of Elgin, plant manager Josh Pinkard of Oswego, and Trevor Wehner, who was interning for Pratt Company for his first day.

Naperville’s own mayor Steve Chirico, showing his support and that of the greater Naperville community.

“Just to let them know as mayor of a neighboring city, that we’re with them,” said Chirico.  “We feel just as hurt as they are.  We just want to know that we care and that we love them and we support them.”

The City of Naperville sent several ambulances and a SWAT team for backup after a disgruntled employee opened fire inside the Pratt Company Warehouse upon learning of losing his job there.  It’s a situation some are calling a “senseless act of violence,” while others say it’s a narrative that’s perhaps all too familiar.

“I live a mile away from here so this awfully close to home,” said Steven Weil.  “So I’m sad but I’m now scared.”

“This week we had the anniversary of Parkland and then NIU,” said his wife Debra Weil.  “There’s too many to count, victims to remember.”

But Sunday night was about remembering these victims, two of which had connections to Northern Illinois University, alumnus Clayton Parks and current student Trevor Wehner, who happened to be starting his internship at Pratt when he was killed.

“I’m sorry that they lost their loved one just like we did,” said Marcella.  “It’s a shame that one lost his life first day on the job, and it wasn’t fair.”

In addition to memorializing the lives lost, many are honoring the fallen officers who rushed into danger.  Volunteers carried five crosses, five miles through cold and heavy snowfall, from the site of the shooting to the aurora police department.  There, they presented officers with an American flag, which the public is invited to sign this week.

“They risked their lives, coming to the Aurora Police Department to this building,” said Casildo Cuevaz, a volunteer who helped carry the crosses and plan the vigil.  “They helped reduce the tragedies and so we’re honoring the police department and everybody that helped us.”

Still, five families will continue to shoulder their crosses as they struggle to find hope in a time of great loss.  But with the help of their friends, neighbors, and even strangers, that weight might be just a little less to carry.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to financially help the families of the victims:

https://www.gofundme.com/AuroraStrong?fbclid=IwAR0hhBUiHVpGEyyZiCd_o6WVifoipg0OopIrjIX8rTfNf9d4LYQIPYdyebU

Kevin Machak reports.

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