COLUMBIA — On Thursday evening, MU junior Liz Harris was sitting in the library working on homework when she noticed an instant message from a friend. It asked if she had heard about what happened in Kirkwood, the town where her parents live.
When she learned a shooting had occurred, she was struck by the tragedy of the event. But it wasn’t until she learned that the shooter had targeted the city council meeting that she fully understood its significance. Liz Harris’ mother, an associate editor with the Webster-Kirkwood Times, attends every Kirkwood City Council meeting.
Without her cell phone, Liz Harris was forced to roam the library, searching desperately for a familiar face. She finally found a friend from high school, who lent her a phone.
Liz Harris called her house, hoping for news of her mother, Marty Harris. When she reached her father, Jack Harris, he was washing someone else’s blood out of his wife’s clothing. He told Liz Harris that her mother was at home, unhurt but shaken up.
Marty Harris returned to work on Friday, trying to regain a sense of normality.
“She doesn’t want me to be as upset as I am,” Liz Harris said.
Liz Harris was surprised by the shooting. She said she would never expect something like that to happen in a town like Kirkwood, which is usually pretty safe.
Alex Ricke, an MU junior, was similarly shocked by Thursday’s events. Ricke graduated from Kirkwood High School in 2005 and has personal ties to several of the victims. He has known Mayor Mike Swoboda and Councilman Michael Lynch for years. Lynch was killed in the shooting, and Swoboda is in the hospital in critical condition.
Ricke was in his fraternity house when he first heard news of the shooting. He said his brothers were very supportive of him throughout the night as he tried to gather more information about what had happened. But even without all of the information, Ricke said he had his own suspicions.
“The first person that came to mind was Cookie,” Ricke said, referring to the shooter Charles “Cookie” Lee Thornton . “Anyone who has been to a city council meeting knows who he is and that he was a loose cannon and that eventually something was going to snap.”
Liz Harris and Ricke agreed that Kirkwood is usually a safe community with a small-town atmosphere.
“It’s one of the best places on earth to raise kids,” Ricke said.