'We will always remember': Rochester Hills splash pad reopens 18 days after mass shooting

Posted at 11:55 PM, Jul 03, 2024

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — After weeks surrounded by a fence, the Brooklands Plaza Splash Pad in Rochester Hills is now back open.

It's been 18 days since tragedy rocked the community when a lone gunman pulled up to the splash pad and opened fire on children and families. Nine people were shot but all have survived. Eight of the nine victims have since been released from the hospital.

On Wednesday, the water could be heard splashing and kids were heard playing. Once just common sounds of summer, today evoke so much emotion. For 18 days, the splash pad sat silent with the fence surrounding it serving as a constant reminder why.

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“Every time I drove by there was just the feeling, the thoughts,” nearby resident Zach Kinsler said.

For Kinsler, the splash pad is a place he would often visit with his wife and kids. He, like many in the neighborhood, were shocked last month when tragedy stuck. However, he said he looks forward to returning.

"I understand people's worry. I understand people's anger, frustration. I feel it too," Kinsler said. "But at the same time, I don't come here thinking something bad is going to happen again.”

Kerri Beckwith is a longtime neighborhood resident and has helped rally support for the community and the nine victims who were shot. Wednesday was her first time back at the splash pad.

“Yes, it's different," Beckwith said of how it felt being back. "But there’s so many more memories that can be made here, positive things that can happen here.”

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett says reopening the splash pad was important step to take.

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“One person was not going to define what this place was," Barnett said. "This is a community space and we're going to make sure the evil that harmed them does not harm other people.”

Before reopening, the city consulted with mental health professionals, who suggested subtle changes like repainting the main building, adding stripes to poles and soon replacing the patio furniture.

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“We invite people back. We know not everyone will be ready initially,” Barnett said. “We're respectful and want to mark what happened here. It was tragic and terrible, but we also don't want someone to take away this important part of our community."

Beckwith says while some neighbors are reluctant to return, most were hoping the splash pad would reopen soon. It's a place so many of them have created positive memories, and they hope to create more.

“Part of the healing is acknowledging yeah, something terrible happened here. It was horrible. But we need to come back here and enjoy it here,” Kinsler said. “Me personally, my family, this is the healing. Coming back and enjoying it.

"Yes something tragic happened here, but if we stopped going to places where things were tragic or something happened here, there’d be nothing left,” Beckwith said. “We will always remember that. This is always going to be something that we will remember. We just have to heal from it and keep moving forward.”

“I think that will be the long-term story of this splash pad and this community," Barnett said. "It will be resilience, it will be recovery and it will be reclaiming places like this.”

On the "Now Open" sign out front, there is a list of mental health resources for residents in need.