By Carrie Beyer MA, LPC
My phone rang early on August 31, 2019. My best friend was on the line, and the tone in her voice told me this wasn’t a social call. Her husband, a first responder, had been called in to work; the magnitude of the threat was unknown, but one thing was certain: Our community was under attack.
For what felt like an eternity, I watched our story unfold. The news coverage of the mass shooting and personal accounts of witnesses poured in. We were saturated with horrifying information and bathed in stress; but that’s not what goes on to impact me to this day. As a mental health counselor, I’m no stranger to the pain and suffering within our community.
It was the front row view I had to our community’s resilience—and the compassion and kindness that emerged from that act of hate—that I’ll never forget.
These are the things I will always remember: The acts of our first responders who took to the streets with no regard for their personal safety, the ones who worked tirelessly to eliminate the threat, offer medical assistance, and restore order. The medical personnel who worked tirelessly to save lives.
The university that opened its doors to become a command center for our first responders and a safe space for community members to receive free mental health services. I remember the counselors, leaders, and educators who offered their time, support, and expertise, the school personnel that helped our children maintain a sense of normalcy, offering reassurance and familiarity to our families.
It was the businesses and community members that provided food, encouragement and physical resources. It was the churches that offered a safe landing. It was the RISE Permian Basin steering committee, made up of several agencies, churches, and professionals, who remained steadfast in gathering and distributing resources. I remember the Night of Healing held by RISE and ECISD, a time to gather in solidarity, to give and receive the physical, mental, and spiritual resources our community desperately needed.
This committee also went on to open the Permian Basin Resiliency Center. These acts of service, compassion, and kindness capture the spirit of West Texas. This is what it means to be West Texas Strong. Four years later, we remain committed to love, service, and healing. These are the things I will always remember, and the things I hope we never forget.
Carrie Beyer MA, LPC, is an SAS Counselor at Permian High School.