After an emotional and traumatic three months, a portion of Planned Parenthood's Colorado Springs health center is open again.
The day of the reopening, all appointments were full, additional patients walked in for health services and an overwhelming number walked in with donations and gifts of appreciation. On the sidewalk, a chalk artist had written "Welcome Back!" We appreciate every gesture, every act of kindness, and every word of encouragement we received in the rebuilding process. We still have some work to do before the entire health center is up and running, but there are talented, dedicated people working hard to repair the building.
Our appreciation and gratitude go to our Colorado Springs staff who are the heart and soul of the new start, who endured the terrible events of Nov. 27, 2015, and the traumatic days that followed. We are keeping in our hearts the loved ones of those of Officer Garrett Swasey, Ke'Arre Stewart and Jennifer Markovsky, and the nine others injured that day.
The partial opening had one goal — to make sure that quality health care is available to women and men in southern Colorado. Our patients' need for care didn't vanish because of the closure, and they had to drive to health centers in the Denver metro area for their appointments. We know our patients come from far beyond Colorado Springs and El Paso County — they come from all over southern Colorado. And all too often, when our health centers close or services are interrupted, it is low-income and rural residents who are impacted most severely.
We also owe thanks to all of the law enforcement officers who were valiant in their duties that day, and to the continued professional and compassionate way the district attorney's office and victim's advocates have provided resources and support to community and staff after the shooting.
This year, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains marks its 100th year of serving patients — and almost 50 years in Colorado Springs and southern Colorado. Our roots in this community are strong and deep and we look forward to serving many more generations of southern Colorado women and men.
In the coming months, as we move forward to fully re-open our Colorado Springs health center, we do so with our patients in our minds and hearts every step of the way. We know the health care they seek here is care that many cannot receive anywhere else. And we are here with Colorado Springs, to provide care, no matter what.
Vicki Cowart is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.