A recounting of yesterday.
I was sitting down at my desk when a tweet came up on TweetDeck that caught my attention.
Breaking News: Shooting reported in the office at Millard South High School.
The Action 3 News tweet had been retweeted to me by Brian Norton, who works for the Omaha World-Herald. I quickly retweeted it. Coworkers who also have Twitter open during the day asked me if it was true. As I’m answering, tweets pop up from the Omaha World-Herald and KETV saying there is a shooting at Millard South High School.
News spreads on Twitter. I don’t say anything to the Student Ministry because I know a number of them are on Twitter as well. Plus, I assume they are getting texts from students.
A contact at Creighton Medical Center calls a coworker to tell us the victims are there. We hear that two of the principals have been shot. Twitter is abuzz with the news. It hits home since the Millard South Principal, Curtis Case, is a member at Christ Community Church.* Forty minutes after I see the initial tweet, the first all staff email comes telling us about the shooting. Then, the emails start coming in about Curtis and his family.
*Thursday mornings we have staff prayer. Last year, there was a morning where we had some school principals and officials attend the meeting so we could pray for them, their staff and the students. Curtis was one of the guests that morning with us.
Because of this, I start posting updates on Facebook and Twitter regarding the shooting. Someone asked if it’s public that Curtis Case has been shot. Most of the tweets on Twitter are identifying him as a victim. I say it’s public, but I verify by going to the Omaha World-Herald site. They’ve identified him as a victim, so we keep the status updates.
It’s weird in the office. We’re tracking the story, wondering who we know at Millard South. Then, we’ll be working on some work project. I was typing up a contact form with a local company. I wanted to meet with them to discuss developing an app for the church when the story broke about the shooting. I’ll do some work, then read updates on Twitter or the World-Herald’s site.
Student Ministry staff ask if I can post updates about the High School event that evening being changed to a prayer service. It will be held in the lounge next to the gym. I start posting info about that online.
We get an email saying Curtis is stable and should be okay. Unfortunately, Vicki Kaspar is in critical condition.
I see that Millard South is the number one trend on Twitter, and the shooting is on the top of a column on Drudge Report. It’s hard to focus, so I do some writing later in the afternoon.
Just before 5 PM, High School Pastor Brad Mock comes by the office to tell us the prayer service is going to be held in the Worship Center. Quickly, the Comm Team posts updates on the web site, social media, and tv stations. The Tech Arts and Worship Teams spring into action as well as they try to get things ready for a service in less than two hours. During our quick planning meeting, I make a joke about the production side of the service.* Everyone laughs, a lot more than the joke deserved. I think we needed a brief moment of humor/respite before delving into the evening.
*The remark made reference to Brad Mock’s recent first Sunday on the job when the haze machine in the Student Center set off the fire alarms and the Fire Department came.
No one knows what to expect at the service. Three years ago, we had a similar service the night of the Westroads Mall shooting. About seventy-five people showed up for that. Even though Millard South isn’t a school where a lot of our students attend, we still think there’ll be people showing up.
It’s after 5:30 PM. Staff that are still in the office are asked to stay, if possible, and be available during the prayer service. I decide to stay.
Sometime after 6:30 PM, the first news crew shows up. A number of news crews would come by for the service. They are asked to stay in the background of the Worship Center.*
*During the service, when people are in groups praying, the cameramen descend onto the stage to film Access Worship Director Ryan Shields playing the piano. A coworker and I text each other saying how nice it is of the cameramen to “stay in the background” during the service. Aside from that moment, they did stay in the background.
People start filling in the Worship Center. Over 200 people are there. A number of students and Millard School District teachers and faculty. There are also people from the community there. While I’m in the Atrium talking to people, I see Mayor Jim Suttle arrive. I go up to him since I hosted him the last time he was at the church. I get him inside the Worship Center and connect him with Lead Pastor Mark. Politics aside, I think it is nice he is at the service.
Mark does a good job with the service. He, along with Brad, lead everyone in various prayer topics related to the shooting. We split into groups to pray. At one point, Mark takes some time to share. He does his best to briefly answer some questions that many people are thinking. It’s something he does well at answering.
The service ends and I head out to the Atrium so I can be available to talk with anyone. I’m out there for a few minutes, watching high school students support one another.
A coworker comes up to me with another individual from the media. It’s someone from CNN (Chris Welch) and they just flew in to cover the story. I take them into the Worship Center and get them connected with some people with connections to Curtis and Vicki.
As people are filtering out, some of us staff are down front just talking about anything and everything. It’s work and life interspersed with the reality at hand. We share stories of what we’ve heard from students and teachers.
We then receive word that Vicki Kaspar has died, and a new round of grief hits.* One of the students still there is overtaken by emotion. Us staff that were in a group talking? It’s silent.
*When I come home later, I’m reading the stories online about the shooting. At one point, the World-Herald referred to receiving the news about Vicki’s death after the CCC prayer service.
One by one people are leaving. I hang around since Chris Welch is still interviewing people. Mark, his daughter and I are talking in the Atrium for awhile. We’re just talking about life and our families. I tell him I’ll stay and wait with Chris.
Chris gets done with his interviews. We talk briefly. I tell him a bit of background on the day, and the connection with Curtis and Christ Community. He leaves, and I get ready to head home. It’s 9 PM.
The boys are asleep when I come home. Jana tells me about the questions Liam had about why I was at the church late. He’s processing about a boy who made a “bad choice” and used a “real gun” to hurt people. Today, Liam reminds me that we need to pray for the families of those who were shot.