‘It’s not getting better:’ The path to recovery for those impacted by mass shooting at Columbia park

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Published: May. 1, 2023 at 7:45 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As deputies search for those responsible for the mass shooting at a Columbia park over the weekend, 11 people, most of them teenagers, are recovering from their injuries.

The shooting happened around 1 A.M. on Saturday at Meadowlake Park, just off Wilson Boulevard.

It was described by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott as a “post-prom flash party.”

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has not yet determined a motive for the shooting.

Of the 11 injured, nine were shot.

Those people must navigate not only the physical toll of the event but also the mental one.

Having experienced such a traumatic scene, the lives of all those in attendance will be forever changed.

“I want to think that we’re going to come together and do something different, but I want to see,” Perry Bradley, community activist and founder of Building Better Communities said. “It’s been years, we’ve been saying the same things over and over again. And it’s not getting better. So what are we going to do? We have to do something now to make a difference.”

One of the victims was hurt after being run over by a car.

Another victim’s hand was badly cut, according to RCSD.

Some of those injured had surgery, and were in serious condition, Lott said.

All are expected to survive.

“After all the surgeries, after everything is done, you still have the mental part of that as well,” Bradley said. “You pray and hope that nothing physical is going to be lasting, but you still have that mental that you have to deal with, and that’s what we want to address.”

Bradley said this is only the beginning of their recovery journey.

“How are they going to feel going in public again?” he said. “How would you feel? How are their families going to feel? How are you going to feel as a mom or a dad letting your child leave the house now after going through this?”

WIS asked RCSD whether any of those injured had been released from the hospital or returned to school on Monday.

A spokesperson said the department could not provide those specific details.

Hundreds more are coping with the chaos.

Bradley said he has spoken to some who were at the park when the shooting happened.

“Some of them, I’ll be honest with you, some of them, they’re used to it,” he said. “But other ones, the ones who are not used to it, they’re scared. They feel like they can’t go anywhere. They feel like adults have let them down. I’ll be honest, some of them feel like it’s not safe to be a kid anymore.”

Teran Rowe understands the toll that gun violence like this can have on families.

His son Ryan was shot and killed in April of last year.

He and Ryan’s mother, Brandy Olivis held a walk encouraging the Midlands to put down the guns at Meadowlake Park on Saturday.

“This is why we’re out here,” he said. “Understand that when you pull that trigger, you can’t take it back. And not only when you do that, you’re affecting yourself, you’re affecting your family and the victim’s family. So a lot of people suffer from the consequences of pulling a gun.”

Rowe is encouraging parents to keep a close eye on their children and check them before they leave the house.

Bradley said his organization is determined to lift up the families impacted by the shooting, and also pour resources into the community to put a stop to gun violence.

“The summer is coming, and it’s going to get worse,” he said. “Our kids are getting out of school, they’re idle. We need things to do. We need to have safe places for our kids to go.”

Through the Building Better Communities’ ambassador program, mentorship is offered to youth to divert them from potential criminal activity and help them reach their goals.

The organization also offers counseling, and will soon provide gun violence prevention training.

In a statement, Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said, “Our hearts go out to the families. Prom season is supposed to be the highlight of your high school years and an opportunity to create memories that you have for a lifetime. It’s just awful that we have folks who ruined this opportunity for memories for so many.”

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