AURORA, Colo. — Teens gathered for a night at Skate City Aurora Saturday night and by 6 p.m. they were scrambling, searching for a safe place.
Katy Takata, 14, was dropped off at the skating rink to celebrate a birthday. She remembers shaking uncontrollably as she tried to get her cousin's skate off to run for safety. Takata felt her biggest fear was unfolding before her eyes.
“We heard like eight loud bangs,” Takata said. “I thought the shooter was going to come in, and they were going to shoot us, and we were going to die there.”
Around 6 p.m. Aurora Police responded to a call of shots fired at Skate City Aurora. When they arrived, they were met by a chaotic crowd, but they didn’t find evidence of a shooting, and no one was injured. A spokesperson with the department said they investigated the scene and didn’t find bullet shell casings or property damage.
But the call and the moment felt real.
Tears welled up in Chris Kviz’ eyes as she recounted the phone call that sent her in a panic, rushing to get to her daughter Takata.
“When you hear your child terrified like that and crying and running for her life, it is the most awful thing you could ever imagine,” Kviz said. “Worst phone call a parent could ever get in their life.”
Rachel Nielsen is the Director of the Colorado Resilience Collaborative (CRC) at the University of Denver. CRC is an initiative of the International Disaster Psychology program. The organization provides services to survivors of targeted violence and addresses violent extremism in Colorado.
Nielsen reviewed the video of teens screaming and running.
“It looked just like a school shooting video,” Nielsen said. “The tone of voice, the movement and just even how the crowd dispersed, it felt really real.”
Nielsen said making a direct connection of loud pops to a mass shooting isn’t normal outside of the U.S.
“I think that the generation that is in school now, especially middle school and high school, has grown up with this being a reality,” Nielsen said. “Our kids are primed to respond in that way because it is a possibility, and they’ve gone through [school shooting] drills, and they see these things in the media all the time, so they’re conditioned to respond in this way.”
Takata hasn’t slept well since the incident, and said the realness of the moment left her shaken.
“It was traumatizing,” Takata said.
Her response isn’t out of the ordinary, according to Nielsen.
“Even with PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder], you can get the full disorder from the belief that you were in a life or death situation or have seen other people going through a life and death situation, which this incident would certainly meet that criteria,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen encourages parents with children who have experienced this kind of trauma to create a safe space where they can openly talk about their feelings.
“I think what the messaging from parents needs to be is that whatever response they’re having is normal for a really extraordinary situation,” Nielsen said.
Kviz has two children in their 30s, and she said they never dealt with the situations her youngest daughter is now experiencing.
“I about had a breakdown yesterday, and said 'I don’t know how to be a parent this age,'” Kviz said.
She said she’s getting Takata help to cope with the trauma.