Today, Monday, October 8, just over a week since the horrors of the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre, our community is still trying to assimilate both the reality of what took place and the impact it has had on literally thousands of people in the Las Vegas valley and beyond. Of the 58 persons who were killed, only 6 were locals living in Clark County, so the tragic loss of life and devastating sorrow extend to communities all across our country and even in other countries. Most of the injured have been released from area hospitals, but some are still fighting for their lives or not yet able to be discharged.
Wherever people gather, the shooting is the topic of conversation, as people need to share their connection to the tragedy, whether through a friend or relative or a “friend of a friend.” People need to talk and to tell their own story of how they heard about the shooting, how the news made them feel, how they are coping with the enormity of what has happened in our town.
Let me share a little bit from the introduction to my sermon yesterday as a way of acknowledging the wide-reaching ripples of this unthinkable evil act.
- Each of the 58 innocent people, who were enjoying the festival one minute and brutally killed the next, had families and friends, co-workers and neighbors whose lives were torn apart and who will never be the same again.
- Each of the hundreds of injured who received gunshot wounds will carry the damage and scars of their injuries for the rest of their lives.
- Each of the thousands who feared for their lives, who ran in the darkness and confusion while bullets rained down on them, who saw bloodied bodies of victims falling around them will never forget the terror they experienced, and will carry emotional wounds – PTSD, survivors’ guilt, nightmares, flashbacks, fear of open places, fear of loud noises and more.
- Many of the hundreds of thousands whose livelihoods depend on people coming to Las Vegas are fearful and anxious about what the future holds for their employment. Will people be afraid to come to Las Vegas? Will there be a drop-off in tourism, conventions and major events?
- And millions around the country and around the world will question what our world is coming to when acts of violence, terrorism and devastation have become almost a daily occurrence.
I want to give a brief summary of some of the responses to the tragedy to date.
- Thanks to Joan Jeffers for her immediate response in requesting assistance from PDA, and in providing additional resources and great suggestions. Our Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Response Team, the Rev. Ed Spence and Gail Farnham, was quickly deployed and arrived on Tuesday.
- Thanks to Pastors Jim Houston-Hencken and Dana Pope for joining me (Denis too) in meeting with the Response Team Tuesday afternoon for an initial assessment of the situation and a preliminary identification of needs.
- Thanks to pastors, staff and members of Grace Presbyterian Church, Green Valley Presbyterian Church and Mountain View Presbyterian Church for planning and providing Prayer Services on Monday, October 2. These services were well-attended both by church members and by members of the community seeking a place to be with others, to hear words of comfort and hope, to cry and hug and pray. The service at Grace included a candlelight vigil at University Medical Center where some of the most critically injured were taken.
- Pastors and church leaders gathered for lunch and mutual support and to meet with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) Response Team who provided helpful information and resources. Ed and Gail offered on-going support, counseling and ministry of presence to all our pastors and congregations.
- Individual church members participated in donating blood, providing financial aid and other requested items as the needs in the community were made known. Also a number of church members attended various vigils and memorial services around the community.
- Several pastors contributed prayers they had written in response to the mass shooting, which were placed into a booklet and made available for all the churches to hand out to congregations yesterday. Thanks to Rev. Adrian Doll and the staff at Green Valley Presbyterian for initiating and completing this special resource.
- Pastors will meet in a few weeks to support each other and to assess what are the long-term needs, and how can we come together to support our community. Lunch meeting will be on Thursday, November 2, 2017 – 12:00 noon at Mountain View Presbyterian Church (Bring your own lunch – beverages, dessert and chips will be provided).
- Pastors will consider when and how to utilize the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance film, “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence” as an outreach to congregations and/or the community early in 2018.
- We will work to compile a listing of community resources for those in need of emotional support, bereavement groups, and/or counseling.
- Look into the possibilities of appreciating/thanking our First Responders: Police, Fire, Paramedics, Nurses, Doctors (especially in ERs and Trauma units).
- Intentionally provide opportunities in our churches for people to come together and talk about how they are doing. This tragedy brings up a number of issues from personal losses and grief to fears for the economic future of our city to concerns about the state of the world in general. People need to talk and to have patient and caring listeners.
- PDA is available to provide special programs in the coming months such as “Care for the Caregivers” or “First Responders: Dealing with Compassion Fatigue.” Please contact me or Joan Jeffers if you would like to pursue organizing a seminar/workshop for your congregation or members of the community.
- Continue to pray for victims, families, the injured and the “walking wounded” who suffered emotional trauma.
Thank you to all of you for your continued prayers and support. Out of this tragedy, God is already graciously at work in our community. (Romans 8:28) Let us be ready to shine the light of Christ’s love.
Yours in Christ, Hilda