Heartache shook Omaha on Dec. 5, 2007. It was the day that Robert Hawkins shot and killed eight people and himself in the Von Maur shopping store in Omaha. For University of Nebraska at Omaha student Samantha Flynn, the day brings back grief and a surreal experience because Flynn’s mom was one of the victims killed in the shooting.
“My life has been impacted in many ways. I have gained so many different opportunities since her passing but I would trade it all in a heartbeat,” Flynn said.
Death is hard to deal with, especially when it comes from such unexpected circumstances. Flynn was only a 13 year old when the incident happened, and it has affected her life ever since. When she thinks back on the times she shared with her mom the first things to pop into her head are shopping, going camping in Colorado and a woman who was all about her family.
Flynn described her mom as someone who loved to shop and snag great deals. She believes shopping is something she inherited from her. Flynn said she hasn’t really gone camping since her mom’s passing, but has plans to someday own property of her own in Colorado.
“I’m very thankful my dad is such a strong person. He really helped us get through everything that has happened. I think through what’s happened I’m a more loving person,” said Flynn.
Flynn recalled when her family first heard about the shooting and remembers how her family, friends and the community responded in an uplifting fashion. Her friends came together and cards and meals came pouring through the Flynn household. She was shocked by the community’s reaction.
“Complete strangers would have done anything to help us and the other families impacted by the shooting. Knowing that you have so many people there supporting and rooting for you truly does help,” Flynn said.
In the years following the shooting, Flynn described how she considered many career options, but there is one that she has always felt called to do, law enforcement. She pictures herself being able to give back to the community and help others. She is majoring in Criminal Justice at UNO and plans to graduate in May of 2017.
“In five years I’d like to see myself employed in law enforcement, really making a difference and doing things in the community,” Flynn said.
The death of a loved one is complicated, but Flynn offered advice for anyone who has ever lost someone. She said to never give up. Flynn explained it may not seem like it in the first few days, weeks or months, but eventually you will be able to deal with the grief.
“It’s almost like something sparks inside you and you realize more about yourself and who you are becoming through dealing with your grief,” Flynn said.
While she said grief will be different for different people, she said to just stay positive.
Flynn encourages others to embrace the grieving process because that is the only way to recover.
Flynn said sometimes life is going to suck and things will happen that you didn’t plan for.
She said to experience life outside of your comfort zone and embrace the time you have now with the ones you love.