As students and parents were reunited at Northridge Recreation Center following the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, Judi Manutes set off in search of her 8-year-old grandson, a student at the …
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As students and parents were reunited at Northridge Recreation Center following the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, Judi Manutes set off in search of her 8-year-old grandson, a student at the school.
Manutes' son John, as it turned out, had already located the second-grader. After finding his son, John asked police what he could do to help, and they sent him in search of water and snacks.
“I wouldn't have even thought to ask,” Manutes said of her son. Manutes and John split up, making runs to nearby grocery stores.
At each store they visited — a nearby Target, Safeway and King Soopers — the answer was the same: Take what you need.
“It was so fulfilling to be able to walk in, and they didn't question me at all,” Manutes said. “I had my credit card. I was ready to pay, but they all said to just take it.”
Helping the community without a second thought comes naturally to grocers, said Adam Williamson, spokesman for King Soopers.
“Grocery stores are sort of first responders in their own right,” Williamson said. “When there's a flood or tornado, where do people go? To get groceries. Store managers and staff are community members as well. We were asked, and assisted as best we could. Our hearts go out to the families going through this.”
Williamson was initially reluctant to comment on the store's involvement.
“This story isn't about us,” Williamson said. “It's about these kids and what they went through. It's about the victims. It's about the heroes that stood up and tried to stop this.”
Back at the rec center, first responders escorted Manutes and her son to drive up to the front entrance, where they began handing out drinks to shaken parents and children.
“Nobody in the crowd was asking us for water, but as we passed it out, you could see the gratitude in their faces,” Manutes said.
The mood in the room was hard to describe, Manutes said — a mix of sorrow, trauma, but relief that these children were OK. Simply having a cold drink in hand seemed to have a calming effect, Manutes said.
As for her family, Manutes said that her grandson hadn't said much about the shooting on the morning after, but the family was huddling together and leaning on one another for support.
“I think I'm a little shell-shocked,” Manutes said. “I'm not my normal self. My son and grandson seem OK. We're here for each other.”
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