NORRISTOWN, Pa. - Members of a Montgomery County community gathered Wednesday to discuss mental health in the wake of a shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 21 people, including 19 children.
"It hit home today, especially what happen in Texas and what happened earlier in the month in Buffalo, it's a tough time," Tony Darden said.
Authorities say Salvador Ramos, 18, shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face at their Uvalde home, then fled in her truck as she summoned help, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Public Safety Director Steve McCraw and other officials.
A short distance away, Ramos crashed the truck outside the school, got out with a rifle and approached a back door, officials said. They said an officer assigned to the school "engaged" Ramos, but the gunman got into the building and down a hallway to a fourth-grade classroom. After locking the classroom door, he opened fire around 11:30 a.m. with an AR-15-style rifle, carrying multiple magazines.
A team including local officers and Border Patrol agents ultimately forced the door open and shot Ramos to death after he fired at them, police said.
Ramos was wearing a tactical vest, though not body armor, according to state senators who said they were briefed on the shooting. There was another AR-15-style rifle in his truck, and a backpack with several magazines full of ammunition was found near the school entrance.
The disturbing loss of young life shook the nation and renewed conversations about gun control and mental health. In Norristown on Wednesday, a panel of mental health experts say what happened in Texas shows the need for mental health may be greater than ever.
"Just a societal trauma. That’s what we’re all experiencing as a result of what’s happened down in Texas. It is really effecting all of us.," Director of Mental Health Collaboration Ingrid Parker said. "Maybe not as personally as the individual families who are directly effected by this but we are seeing this."
MORE ON UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING
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- Father who lost son in Parkland Mass Shooting says he feels physical pain for Texas parents
- Texas school shooting: Border Patrol agent killed gunman, reports say
The goal of Wednesday's meeting was to help break the stigma and provide resources to parents who may have never asked for help. The Norristown Police Department recently hired a new Director of Mental Health to help officers in the community.
"There’s a lot going on. Inflation, Crime. You have to call somebody. Talk to someone. Call a therapist. Call a psychiatrist people out there who want to help. And often times it's free," Norristown Police Chief Derrick Wood said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report