A letter from our publisher

Resources for help after Paddock Mall shooting

Ocala Mayor Ben Marciano issued a video offering his condolences for all those impacted by the Saturday shooting at the Paddock Mall.

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Posted December 25, 2023 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

After the shooting stopped I went to work. I called in my first report within six minutes of the first shots and before paramedics arrived to help those injured. In my mind, I was reacting proactively in a positive way and I held it together and interviewed people and took photos. Working gave me a temporary band-aid to what I had witnessed.

And, I would also say that I am different than most in that I have spent so much time reporting on the uptick in violent crime that I was not shocked it was happening in front of me. I have no delusions that Ocala is Disneyland and bad things don’t happen here.

The shell-shocked children I spoke to immediately after, the people crying, the parent overcome with worry waiting for his sons to come out of the mall might be like me – and experiencing a delayed intense response. Combine that with the holidays which present their own unique mental health challenges and people could be experiencing intense reactions to what they experienced at the mall shooting.

I held it together, but I noticed I reacted uncharacteristically angry the night of the event to someone I care about because they didn’t seem to understand I needed them. I noticed I’ve had a hard time concentrating and have canceled social engagements that usually make me happy during this festive time. Even the tough people are impacted after a crisis.

One of my close friends, away visiting in Boston for the holidays was trying to find me a trauma counselor yesterday on Christmas Eve. Then, I get a text from our new mayor with this initiative. I’m grateful to see leadership that is intuitive to what the people need rather than politically jockeying for camera time.

To friends and family of those impacted from Saturday’s tragedy, please be patient and please encourage your loved ones to get mental health help.

SMA is providing free counseling for anyone struggling with what they experienced at the mall this weekend or just struggling in general. The holidays can be difficult in and of themselves. Don’t suffer alone. [Ocala Mayor Ben Marciano, via Facebook]

For free counseling for those impacted by the shooting at the Paddock Mall on Saturday, call the SMA Healthcare 24/7 Helpline at (800)539-4228. 

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