YORK, Pa. — Sometimes, Emily Brown’s mind flashes back to July 2, 2015.
When she hears firecrackers. Sees wood decks. Smells the aromas of a summer night.
Brown was a customer at Flapjack’s Restaurant and Pub off U.S. Route 15 in Carroll Township that night, along with about 50 to 60 other people. It was Bike Night. Bud Lights were on special for $2, and it was about 24 hours from the start of the holiday weekend.
But shortly before 9 p.m., Arthur Guise, 31, walked onto the patio and, without saying a word, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Sharon Williams, 33. He then killed himself.
What happened that night in a normally quiet area of York County has, in a way, forever connected a group of people: witnesses, first-responders and members of both families. One year later, they press forward in different ways.
Guise’s parents are attempting to bring awareness to post-traumatic stress disorder – which they believed he battled – and suicide among veterans. Williams’ loved ones are trying to keep her memory alive.
“Your life changes,” said Brown, 48, a small business owner who lives in Carlisle. “That’s for sure.”
Looking back, Brown thinks she was “more prepared” than most people who were there.
She had already been going to therapy. She had already learned not to hold in her feelings.
That’s because in 2010, her son, Jyler Yock , a “typical teenager” who played football and lacrosse, also died by suicide. He was 15.
As time goes on, she said, the experience of what happened at the bar “lightens a bit.” Her emotions aren’t as intense – but they can still go everywhere.
Now, Brown said, she tries to help other people. If they mention that something’s not right in their relationship, she encourages them to speak up.
“The timing, the being there and just – you do question yourself: ‘Why was I there?’“ Brown said. “We were designed to be there because we can make a difference.”
Sgt. David Smith, who’s been with the Carroll Township Police Department for 21 years, said you always have to keep your emotions and feelings out of the job when responding to calls involving a death.
It’s a little bit easier for first responders, because they often know what to expect, he said. Smith had been sent out on another call, and was so close to Flapjack’s Restaurant and Pub that he heard the gunshots.
Following those types of cases, he said, it often helps to talk about them.
“A lot of times, you don’t have time to do the grieving,” Smith said. “The more I talked about it, the more it’s easier to deal with. But it’s traumatic for everybody.”
Bringing War Home
Being in a military family, Kim Peters, Guise’s mother, said you live every day knowing that your loved one has committed to give his or her life, if necessary, to defend the United States.
“So you don’t expect when your child comes home from serving two tours in Iraq,” she said, “that the enemy would still win on U.S. soil in the form of PTSD.”
Peters, 53, said she’s looking to raise awareness about the disorder, as well as suicide among veterans.
Her family is still “in the grieving world,” Peters said. They’ve continued to ask themselves: “Could we have done something to change the outcome?”
Guise was a 2002 alumnus of Northern High School. Following graduation, he worked, eventually enrolling at Eastern University in Philadelphia to study youth ministry.
Later, he got an engineering degree from Harrisburg Area Community College, and was a sales associate at 84 Lumber in Carroll Township.
For Guise, 9/11 stayed in the back of his mind, and played a role in his decision to join the U.S. Army, family members said.
On Sept. 12, 2001, he turned 18. A military recruiter was at his school. But he would not enlist until several years later. When he did, Guise was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and 2011.
He was intelligent, his family said, and enjoyed hunting, fishing and cooking. One time, he helped a cousin who ran out of gas at 3 a.m.
“His friends knew they could call him, if they needed something,” said Richard Peters, 53, his stepfather.
When Guise returned, at times, he seemed “different.” His parents believe it’s because of PTSD, though he never received a formal diagnosis.
He attended counseling through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To family members, many warning signs of suicide were not present.
Kim Peters said they also grieve for Williams’ family.
“It was very important to us, from the very beginning, that we recognized that there were two lives that were lost there that day,” she said.
Said Lenard Guise, his father: “That was not our son.”
In South Middleton Township, Cumberland County, John Morehouse, 56, described Williams as a “loving, caring person,” and said that he wants his daughter to be remembered.
Williams’ “pride and joy” was her daughter, who’s now 4 years old, he said. Morehouse said Williams wanted to be independent and support herself.
“She would starve,” Morehouse said, “to make sure that girl got plenty of food.”
She was outgoing – someone who would do runs for charity. A 2000 graduate of Boiling Springs High School, Williams also knew how to change the oil and tires on her own car: a Honda Element.
For the past several years, she lived with her grandmother to help out. Williams worked as a medical assistant at Bent Creek Family Medicine outside Mechanicsburg.
Her goal was to become a registered nurse, and she planned on going to HACC. The acceptance letter came in the mail several weeks after her death, family members said.
“It kind of runs in the family,” said Gladys Morehouse, 85, Williams’ grandmother and a retired nurse at the U.S. Army Carlisle Barracks, of the profession.
Both Williams and her ex-husband enjoyed celebrating Halloween. So that might help explain why their cat was named Lucifer – or Lulu – for short.
Even in her 30s, Williams refused to give up a teddy bear that she got for her first Christmas. Throughout the years, she or another person would stitch it back up. It’s now buried with her ashes.
When he’s by himself, he can let go, John Morehouse said. But around other people, he keeps his emotions inside.
“You never get over it,” John Morehouse said. “You just learn to cope with it.”
Still, there are constant reminders. Right now, for example, he’s finishing taking care of his daughter’s estate.
Several months ago, John Morehouse said he had a dream two nights in a row in which Williams and her grandmother were in the kitchen.
Williams was a little bit younger. At one point, she went up and hugged him.
“Daddy, it’ll be OK,” she said. “Everything will be all right.”
Warning Signs and Resources:
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists the following symptoms as warning signs of suicide among veterans:
– Discussing death or talking about a wish to be dead.
– Talking about hopelessness, humiliation or being trapped and desperate.
– Insomnia, “intense anxiety” and panic attacks.
– Withdrawing socially and from family members.
– Losing interesting in activities.
– ”Extreme agitation,” intoxication.
– Looking for ways to hurt or kill themselves.
Here are several resources that are available for suicide prevention and those affected by domestic violence:
– The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at (800) 273-8255.
– The Veteran Crisis Line is available 24/7 at (800) 273-8255. People can also send a text message to 838255.
– The National Domestic Violence Hot Line can be reached 24/7 at (800) 799-7233.
What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that can develop in response to overwhelming trauma. The disorder involves chemicals in the brain, and can lead to other problems such as depression or substance abuse. The following are four symptoms of PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
– Reliving an event through nightmares or flashbacks.
– Avoiding people or situations that remind one of a traumatic experience.
– No longer being interested in activities, as well as feeling fear, guilt or shame.
– Being constantly on the lookout for danger, and having difficulty concentrating or sleeping.