On Feb. 14, 2018, a shooting occurred at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen were killed and 14 were injured when the gunman, a former student, opened fire on campus and entered a building.
That afternoon, W. Derrick Lea, Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) director, asked Florida and Southeastern Regional conference directors to contact their local emotional/spiritual care providers to assess availability. Lea also spoke with American Red Cross leadership, who was checking on what help the school might need from the disaster response community. Says Lea, "We've also reached out to the Florida VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) to ascertain how ACS DR might be of assistance. Things are extremely hectic on the ground and I will be securing information to see if there is need for our services."
Lea learned today, Feb. 15, that the school has people in place to provide emotional and spiritual care in such situations, therefore, the ACS DR team from both local Adventist conferences will meet this evening to coordinate the setup of a help center at the Pompano Beach Seventh-day Adventist Church on Friday night and Sabbath evening (Feb. 16 and 17). This is the closest Adventist church to the high school and Lea says, "Our local ACS DR plans to offer this help to the community — if people want to come in and talk — with certified emotional and spiritual care providers, and will be prepared to assist if other needs come up."
This is the 18th school shooting in the United States this year.* Samantha Grady, a Pathfinder who is a student at Parkland, is one of the injured in this latest shooting. According to a news report on NBC's Today.com, Grady said she took her best friend's advice to use a book to shield herself from the bullets that flew into the classroom, where she and others were huddled behind furniture.
The NBC story reports that Grady was working on an assignment about the Holocaust when she heard two shots in the hallway. Her best friend pushed her down, and the two then ran toward a big bookshelf. The friend urged Grady to grab a book and use it for protection. Grady's friend, who was attending church with Grady, according to family friends, did not survive.
The North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church asks its members to "keep our communities in prayer."
*This statistic was reported by Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group that defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”