Community moves forward with ‘hope, strength and resolve’
Sheriff Ken Furlong remembers telling the media in the wake of last year’s mass shooting at the Carson City IHOP that the community would rebound.
“We will rebuild,” he told them, “but we will not forget.”
Mayor Bob Crowell said Friday’s ceremony, “With Hope, Resolve and Strength, Carson City Remembers,” helped accomplish that. A tree was planted in honor of those killed and injured, along with an obelisk erected in their honor.
“When events such as Sept. 6 occur, they awaken the psyche of a community and remind us of the fragility of life. They remind us that while evil occurs, a community survives through the strength and resolve of its citizens – each helping the other in a collective bond of care and concern,” Crowell told a crowd of about 200 people gathered in the Pony Express Pavilion. “They remind us that out of adversity comes strength and resolve. So tonight we remember the past but dwell upon the future and commit ourselves to making our city and the world around us a better place to live.”
On Sept. 6, 2011, Eduardo Sencion, 32, walked into IHOP and opened fire with an AK47, killing four and injuring eight others before turning the gun on himself.
Three members of the National Guard were killed – 31-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney of Reno; 38-year-old Master Sgt. Christian Riege of Carson City; and 35-year-old Major Heath Kelly of Reno.
Florence Donovan-Gunderson, a 67-year-old resident of South Lake Tahoe, was sitting near the Guard members with her husband, Wally, when she was shot. She later died at a hospital.
Furlong said the horror of that day was met with heroism as well.
“I witnessed both the evil of humanity and the strength, resolve and hope of this community,” he said. “Even before the most immediate first responders could arrive, citizens – our own neighbors, our friends, and in some cases strangers – were jumping in to comfort those dying, suffering and those who had been paralyzed by what they had just seen.”
Although the majority of the victims were National Guard members, no motive was ever determined for Sencion, who was known to suffer from mental illness.
“One thing is now certain,” said Bill Burks, adjutant general at Nevada National Guard, “we will never know the whys of that day. Today, quite frankly, the whys don’t matter anymore. Today is about community coming together.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Mock and Sgt. Caitlin Kelly, both wounded in the attack, attended the ceremony.
Both said they are healing from their injuries.
“I still have a couple more surgeries, I’ve still got a lot of nerve damage,” said Mock, who was shot in the arm. “I have good days and bad days.”
He said he appreciated the ceremony’s theme.
“It’s always good to move forward,” he said.
Susan McElfish, who has two enlisted sons, attended the ceremony for those who had lost loved ones or had been injured in the shooting.
“The families need to know the community supports them,” she said.
Julie Fleischmann, whose two sons are in the Air Force, said the victims needed to be bolstered.
“We need to show them the community cares,” she said. “We’ll never forget.”
Written on the obelisk were the words: Hope, Resolve and Strength.
It was a message Kelly endorsed.
“The people need hope don’t they?”