JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Monday will mark a year since the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department responded to the mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing.
Firefighters from Station 1 were training near The Jacksonville Landing on Aug. 26, 2018 when a lone gunman opened fire during a video game tournament at Chicago Pizza inside The Landing. Two men were killed before the shooter took his own life. Many more were injured.
Although the firefighters didn't hear the gunfire, they heard the screams that followed. They looked up and saw people streaming out of the front door and swarming up the road.
Firefighters immediately sprang into action and cared for the wounded, even entering the Landing, despite training that says firefighters must wait until police clear the building and make sure the scene is safe.
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The Jacksonville gaming community hopes to bring positive change from the shooting. About 50 gamers gathered Sunday at Aardwolf Brewing Company in San Marco for a Super Smash Brothers tournament. It's a game many Millennials grew up playing. This tournament brings people together monthly for a friendly competition and to keep up the camaraderie.
Evan Werthman owns a video game-themed food truck in Jacksonville and also frequented Chicago Pizza before the mass shooting. He hosted Sunday's event and says he's noticed an increase in safety at bigger tournaments. But he also says there are only so many precautions that can be taken.
"I think we never really forget what happened. It's something that's kind of left a scar on the community, but we've moved on in a more positive direction because we're not letting the event define who we are as the gaming community," said Werthman, owner of The Joyshtick LLC. "We don't attribute it to who we are. And we don't really let it define any of our steps moving forward. We don't let the fear from the event impact the decisions we make."
For some, video games are a hobby. But for others, such as Mark Ronan, they are a lifestyle.
"It's pretty much been a part of my every day life for at least," Ronan said. "OK, pretty much my whole life."
Ronan used to run tournaments at the Good Luck, Have Fun or GLHF game room inside Chicago Pizza.
He wasn't there the day of the shooting but says it rocked the local gaming community.
"It's obviously just like a whole world shock," Ronan said. "It doesn't feel real. You're getting phone calls from all over the country. It was definitely just like nothing like anything else."
Another gamer there today says he's noticed an increase in safety at bigger tournaments.
"Yeah it was definitely, it's like, a reality check, " said Elvis Gozic. "It makes us cognizant of, like, what can happen depending on where you're going and so like it makes us kind of more getting us together and doing better so we can have better security, bag checks, all that so we can prevent that stuff from happening in the future."
One year after the mass shooting made headlines on the news networks and national newspapers for 24 hours and kept the riverfront shopping center for closed for nearly a week, The Jacksonville Landing has closed for good.
Jacksonville Association of Firefighters President Randy Wyse said the fire department prepares in case anything similar happens again.
"JFRD continues to train for active shooter incidents and is continuing to outfit crews and ballistic protection," Wyse said. "The JFRD works with JSO (the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) and other law enforcement agencies to make sure there is a coordinated response to any incident that we all respond to. Firefighters have become more cognizant of clues and information as they respond to calls, which make them more prepared as they arrive."
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