‘Broken and hurting’ Santa Fe seeks hope, healing

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Joey Tombrella had a personal story to tell in his graduate recognition sermon days after the Santa Fe High School mass murder.

His sister Rachel Blundell, the school’s principal, and her daughter, 18-year-old niece Faith, were among those seeking safety when a teenager walked into the school, killed 10 and injured another 10.

“Prom was last week, and to hear gunshots behind you as you run in a grassy field with your heart racing,” pastor Tombrella said of his niece, “it is not a surprise why this generation is being labeled the anxious generation.”

Faith told her story at Tombrella’s kitchen table in League City, Texas, the night before his sermon at Nassau Bay Baptist Church about 25 miles from the school. She heard the shots when they began around 7:30 a.m. May 18.

“She could see down the hallway one of her teachers, in her words, freaking out,” Tombrella said of Faith. “As she was leaving, she could hear the gunshots going from the high school. The fire alarm possibly could have even saved my sister’s life; I think she could have gone [back] inside, but the doors were looked because of the fire alarm.”

Both survived the ordeal uninjured, but eight students and two teachers were killed in the attack.

Area pastors met in Santa Fe to plan a community-wide service of hope and healing said John Newton, pastor of First Baptist Church of Alta Loma.

“We are broken and we are hurting,” said Newton. “The wounds are very deep, they are very fresh. We are a small community. We have one high school and we know the kids. We’re not a metropolitan area with large schools. We live here.”

The town is accustomed to hurricanes, he said, but not mass shootings.

“We do hurricanes. We’re resilient. Neighbors help neighbors,” he said. “This [shooting] is hopefully something that is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and nobody will ever have to go through that again, because it is loss of life.

“It is a loss of security, a feeling of hopelessness, and personally, as a pastor,” Newton said, “I found myself not really even knowing how to feel, knowing what to do, and reaching out to some chaplains.” The Billy Graham Rapid Response team is onsite, Newton said.

Police have arrested Dimitrios Pagourtzis as a suspect in the shooting. The 17-year-old used a shotgun, revolver and handmade explosive devices in the rampage. Some of the explosive devices were operational, police said in news reports May 20, although none of them were successfully detonated on the day of the crime.

— by Diana Chandler | BP

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