In the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting, that left 19 students and 2 teachers dead, the Texas Chief of Police Association put out a call to law enforcement agencies to help assist the small community in their time of need. The Temple Police Department answered the call.
Deputy Chief Jeff Clark drove nearly 300 miles, and spent his Memorial Day weekend in small-town Texas, helping any way he could.
"It was a very somber experience. It was, you know, difficult to see. The grief and the emotional toll that pretty much that entire community was experiencing down there," said Clark.
Clark said it did not take him long to realize how close-knit the town of Uvalde is. His job was simple, making sure citizens felt safe so they could focus on grieving and healing.
"There are certain key governmental buildings, in certain areas throughout the town that they were wanting security to," said Clark. "They had an event center set up for the families of the victims to be able to receive counseling, which they wanted a secure. Just to make sure that you know, they had the opportunity to go through the grieving process and not have to worry about any kind of individual safety or anything like that."
Being in an environment where victims feel safe is key when it comes to starting the grieving and healing process.
"Having more people around to support you, whether it's family, friends, you know, police officers, whatnot that can feel that can help you feel a little more secure," said Dr. Levi McClendon, professor of counseling and psychology at Texas A&M Central Texas.
Dr. Levi said nothing can ever replace the hole that is left in the families of the victim's hearts.
"One of the things we know about trauma is that if you hold it in, if you don't talk about it, if you push it away, if you try to keep yourself busy, in the direct aftermath of trauma, that's very normal. When you try to do that long term, it tends to make things much worse and you start to develop the post-traumatic stress symptoms," said Levi.
Experiencing the feelings, allows your body to I guess, begin to process that, if you could say that, and that processing I wouldn't say like, it makes the pain go away, but it allows it to have less control and less power over you."
Making sure that these families and the entire community have access to long-term mental health care will be detrimental to their mental health.
Levi said, "It is really important for, you know, all of us know, just tend to reach out to continue to reach out over time, especially as the support for the community starts to wane. What my concern is, and where I go to is three, or six months down the road when everyone has moved on. That's when it's going to be extremely hard. When those anniversaries come around when all of the sudden mental health support that was there before is now gone."
Deputy Chief Clark said his time in Uvalde touched his heart, but when he is called to serve he will always answer no matter what.
"When we become sworn peace officers, it's not just in our cities, or, our jurisdictions, we're sworn peace officers for the state of Texas. That community will begin to heal over time, but I don't think it'll ever be the same after something like this," said Clark.