The Lives of the Florida School Shooting Victims: We Mourn Together

People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Kami Klein

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed.

Once again the nation mourns innocent and loving lives that have been taken from us too soon.  Over the course of the week there have been several news stories on the gunman, his motivations, the warning signs, and the steps he took on that horrible day.  His name is mentioned countless times. It will not be mentioned here.

It is the lives that were lost to us that truly matter.  It is their names that should be on our hearts and the family and friends who are enduring a grief that is beyond most of our understanding.

We ask that you honor those we have lost and as you read about each of them, please pray for those left behind, that have no answers.  Please pray for all of the people who loved them.  Pray for the students that survived so that they can heal from the horror and terror they have witnessed.  Pray for the teachers who will be dealing with their own grief but must help these young people attempt to heal.  Pray for our leaders that they may make wise decisions to protect our children.  

Our spirits have been crushed by this horrible tragedy.  Let us come together and pray for healing during this unbelievable grief.  

 

Those we have lost…

Nicholas Dworet (17) was a competitive swimmer aspiring to compete in the 2020 Olympics. A high school senior, he had recently been recruited to swim at the University of Indianapolis.“That was what he was working for, and he would’ve made it,” Nicole Nilsson, a family friend, told TIME. “He had very big aspirations.”

The father of Jaime Guttenberg (14), a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, shared news of her death in an emotional Facebook post on Thursday. “My heart is broken,” Fred Guttenberg wrote.“I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family will get through this,” he said, thanking friends and family members for their support. “Hugs to all and hold your children tight.”

Alyssa Alhadeff (14) , a soccer player at the Parkland Soccer Center.  Her family left this message on the club’s facebook post.  “Honor Alyssa by doing something fabulous in your life. Don’t ever give up and inspire for greatness,”  “Live for Alyssa! Be her voice and breathe for her.”

Scott Beigel (35) was a geography teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. One of his students says he protected his classroom during the shooting and that she’s “100% certain” he saved her life.

Meadow Pollack (18), a senior at the high school, had planned on attending Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida next year.“She was just unbelievable,” her father, Andrew Pollack, told the New York Times. “She was a very strong-willed young girl who had everything going for her.”

Coach Aaron Feis (37) shielded students from the shooter with his own body.  He has been described as a phenomenal man who loved his students and he did exactly like everyone knew he would; putting himself second and his students lives first.

Christopher Hixon, (49)  the athletic director at the school, was also among those killed in the shooting.“Chris is probably the nicest guy I have ever met. He would give you the shirt off his back. “Dan Jacob, the athletic director at nearby Coral Springs High School, told the Sun-Sentinel.

Luke Hoyer (15)  a freshman loved basketball and looked forward to High school.. His aunt said, “Our Luke was a precious child, who just went to school yesterday not knowing what was to come.”

Carman Schentrup (16) A National Merit Scholar semifinalist had recently gone on a college visit to the University of Washington, her cousin Matt Brandow said in a Facebook post, calling her the “most intelligible 16 year old I’ve ever met.”

Gina Montalto (14) was reported to be part of her high school’s state-champion marching band.   her mother, Jennifer Montalto, wrote in Facebook post shared by local station CBS 12. “She was a smart, loving, caring, and strong girl who brightened any room she entered.”

Alex Schachter (14) played the trombone in his school’s marching band and “just wanted to do well and make his parents happy,” his father, Max Schachter, told the New York Times.

Peter Wang (15) was in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Program, according to the Miami Herald, and was last seen in his gray uniform on Wednesday. His cousin, Aaron Chen, told the Herald that Wang held the door open so others could escape during the shooting.

Alaina Petty (15) was a member of the school’s JROTC program and participated in the “Helping Hands” program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helping to clean up Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September, according to the Miami Herald.

Duque Anguiano (14) was a freshman at the school, according to the Miami Herald. His older brother, Miguel, posted about his death on Instagram early Thursday. “Words cannot describe my pain,” he wrote in the post. “I love brother Martin you’ll be missed buddy. I know you’re in a better place. Duques forever man I love you junior!!!”

Helena Ramsey (17) would have gone to college next year, a family member said in a long Facebook post. The relative remembered her as a “smart, kind hearted and thoughtful person.”“Though she was somewhat reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her. She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone,” the post said.

Joaquin Oliver (17), who was born in Venezuela, moved to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old, according to the Miami Herald. He became a U.S. citizen last January.

Cara Loughran, (14) loved her cousins and spending time at the beach, her family said, according to the New York Times.Her aunt, Lindsay Fontana, posted about Loughran’s death on Facebook and urged readers to take action to prevent future shootings.“We are absolutely gutted. Cara was 14 years old. She was an excellent student, she loved the beach and she loved our girls,” she wrote in the post. “While your thoughts are appreciated, I beg you to DO SOMETHING. This should not have happened to our niece Cara and it cannot happen to other people’s families.”

For pictures and more on the lives of these brave teachers, coaches and students please see this excellent article from time.com.  

Six months on, Grenfell fire survivors weep at London memorial

Six months on, Grenfell fire survivors weep at London memorial

By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) – Survivors of a blaze that killed 71 people six months ago in the Grenfell Tower social housing block in west London wept during a multi-faith memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday attended by members of the royal family.

Bereaved relatives held pictures of their loved ones as they commemorated Britain’s deadliest fire since World War Two, a tragedy that has profoundly shocked the nation.

Fire broke out in the middle of the night on June 14 and quickly gutted the 24-storey building, which was home to a multi-ethnic community living in a poor area within one of London’s richest boroughs, Kensington and Chelsea.

The disaster highlighted the area’s extreme disparities in living conditions between rich and poor and fueled a debate over why safety concerns voiced by tower residents before the fire had been ignored.

The service reflected the multi-cultural character of the Grenfell community, with Christian and Muslim prayers and music from Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Western traditions.

It also addressed the anger of many survivors over what they perceive as the neglect of their community before and after the fire. A majority of the hundreds of people displaced by the fire are still staying in hotels because suitable permanent homes have not been provided yet.

“Today we ask why warnings were not heeded, why a community was left feeling neglected, uncared for, not listened to,” Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, told the congregation.

“Today we hold out hope that the public inquiry will get to the truth of all that led up to the fire at Grenfell Tower … and we trust that the truth will bring justice.”

Police are investigating the fire and say charges may be brought against individuals or organizations. A separate public inquiry is under way on the causes of the fire and the authorities’ response.

Mourners pay their respects outside St Paul’s Cathedral after a memorial service in honour of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, in London, Britain, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

“REMEMBER ME”

Prime Minister Theresa May, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his sons Prince William and Prince Harry were among those attending the service along with bereaved families and firefighters who took part in the rescue effort on the night.

The devastation inside Grenfell Tower was such that it took police and forensic scientists several months to recover and identify all human remains. The final death toll was 53 adults and 18 children.

The service began when a white banner bearing a large green heart emblazoned with the word “Grenfell” was carried through the congregation to the pulpit by a Catholic priest and Muslim cleric from the area around the charred tower.

Later, a young Syrian musician played a mournful tune on the oud, an instrument commonly played in the Middle East and parts of Africa, where many Grenfell residents had ties.

A choir of Muslim schoolgirls performed a song called “Inshallah”, and survivor Nadia Jafari, who escaped from the tower but lost her elderly father Ali, read a poem called “Remember Me” by the 13th century Persian poet and scholar Rumi.

The service also included a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” performed by a Caribbean-style steel band, and a performance of “Somewhere” from the musical “West Side Story.”

Schoolchildren from the Grenfell area scattered green hearts, a symbol of solidarity with the victims and survivors, around the cathedral’s altar.

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

In grieving Texas town, faith sustains those left behind

A member of the media walks inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

By Tim Reid

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – Joe Holcombe and his wife, Claryce, lost eight members of their family in the Texas church shooting last Sunday, including their son, grandchildren, a pregnant granddaughter-in-law and a great- granddaughter who was still a toddler. But they are serene.

Chairs and roses mark where worshipers were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

Chairs and roses mark where worshipers were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“It’s just not a problem to us,” said Holcombe, 86, adding that he and 84-year-old Claryce believe their dead family members are now alive again in heaven.

“We know exactly where the family is, and it’s not going to be long until we’ll both be there,” he said. “And we’re really sort of looking forward to it.”

Chairs and roses show where Joann and Brooke Ward and others were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

Chairs and roses show where Joann and Brooke Ward and others were found dead at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The Holcombes were upbeat and full of good humor during a telephone interview, and they are not an exception in this deeply evangelical part of Texas.

What is so striking about relatives and friends of the 26 victims of the church shooting in tiny Sutherland Springs is that they all believe good will come from this act of evil and that their loved ones are now safe for eternity, and breathing again, with God.

Psychologists say such deep faith can help families deal with such a ghastly event. Even so, they warn that leaning too heavily on one’s religious beliefs can stunt the natural grieving period and result in post-traumatic stress later.

A cross with a crown of thorns and a Bible open to the book of Proverbs are seen at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017.

A cross with a crown of thorns and a Bible open to the book of Proverbs are seen at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed one week ago, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“I can see potentially it could be some form of denial, a delayed traumatic reaction, and if you don’t have some kind of negative feelings, it can catch up with you,” said clinical psychologist and trauma expert Bethany Brand.

Gina Hassan, a psychologist in northern California, said Sutherland Spring’s faith was invaluable in the wake of the shooting, “but if it’s relied upon in a rigid way, then it’s going to be a problem down the line and come back to bite you later on.”

Local veterinarian George Hill, a relative of the Holcombes, said an evangelical belief in Christ was the only way to deal with such a tragedy.

“We haven’t lost hope,” he said. “They are not gone. They are just gone ahead. And we know we’ll see them again.”

He expressed faith that evil would not prevail. “It looks like evil won, but it didn’t,” he said. “Good is going to win.”

Pastor Mike Clements of the First Baptist Church in Floresville, a small city 14 miles from Sutherland Springs, is officiating over the funeral services for the extended Holcombe family on Wednesday.

The dead include Bryan Holcombe, Joe and Claryce Holcombe’s son, and his wife Karla. Their son Danny Holcombe was killed as well, along with his 18-month-old daughter, Noah. Crystal Holcombe, who was 18 weeks pregnant, was Bryan and Karla Holcombe’s daughter-in-law.

Also shot and killed were Emily, Megan and Greg Hill, three children from Crystal’s first marriage, which had ended with her husband’s death.

Under Texas law, Crystal’s unborn child is also being counted as a victim, making a death toll of nine for the family.

People in Sutherland Springs are truly grieving, Clements said. But evangelicals accept Christ into their lives in a very real way, and because of that, their faith is incredibly liberating, especially at a time of such great tragedy.

Most fundamentally, he said, they believe people who have accepted Christ will go to heaven.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Clements said over lunch near his church. “There is nothing better than heaven when you are a believer.”

 

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)

 

UK announces fire safety review after tests identify 82 unsafe tower blocks

A man looks at floral tributes for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fatal fire, in London, Britain July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Tolga Akmen

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain announced a review of building and fire safety rules on Friday after tests conducted following last month’s deadly tower block blaze in London found a cladding system known to be used on 82 buildings breached regulations.

Police have said they believe the system of insulation and cladding panels added during a refurbishment of Grenfell Tower may have contributed to the rapid spread of the fire in which 80 people died.

After initial testing highlighted potential fire risks in buildings across the country, a second, more extensive round of tests found a specific cladding system known to be in use on 82 buildings did not meet building regulations, the government said in a statement.

Alongside the release of the test results, ministers ordered an independent review of building regulations and fire safety.

“It’s clear we need to urgently look at building regulations and fire safety,” communities minister Sajid Javid said in a statement. “This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements.”

The review will look at the existing regulatory system, compliance and enforcement of the regulations, and will draw on similar regulations overseas.

Friday’s results are the first to be published from six sets of tests involving three different types of aluminium composite material combined with two different types of insulation.

The government said immediate action was already underway to ensure the safety of residents in the affected buildings, without giving further details.

The BBC reported on Thursday that police investigating the fire believe there are grounds to suspect that corporate manslaughter may have been committed by the local council.

(Reporting by William James,; editing by Kylie MacLellan and Ed Osmond)

Child, 5, named as youngest victim of London tower block fire

Five-year-old Isaac Paulous, who died in the Grenfell Tower fire, is seen in this undated photograph received via the Metropolitan Police, in London, Britain June 27, 2017. Metropolitan Police/Handout/Via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – A five-year-old boy was identified by police on Tuesday as the youngest victim so far of the fire which engulfed a London tower block two weeks ago, killing at least 79 people.

Isaac Paulous was named as one of those who died after fire tore through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block, trapping many inside their apartments.

“Isaac, our beloved son, was taken from us when he was only 5 years old,” his family said in a statement.

“We will all miss our kind, energetic, generous little boy. He was such a good boy who was loved by his friends and family. We will miss him forever, but we know God is looking after him now and that he is safe in heaven.”

Police have so far identified about 20 of the 79 who are dead or missing and presumed dead, and have warned they might never know how many people died in the inferno.

The British government has faced mounting criticism for its response to the disaster, while police say they would consider criminal charges, including manslaughter, over the fire.

The officer in charge of the investigation has said exterior cladding on the building had failed all fire safety tests and on Monday the government said 75 high-rise tower blocks in England with similar cladding had also failed tests.

U.S. firm Arconic Inc said it was stopping global sales of its Reynobond PE cladding, which was used in Grenfell Tower, for use in high-rise buildings following the fire.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Ten-year-old boy on Kansas City waterslide died of neck injury

A general view of the Verruckt waterslide at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – The 10-year-old son of a state lawmaker died of a neck injury while riding the world’s tallest water slide in Kansas City, Kansas, police said on Monday.

Caleb Thomas Schwab died on Sunday at the Schlitterbahn waterpark on the Verrückt water slide, which sends riders plunging down 17 stories at up to 50 miles an hour (80 kph).

He was riding with two women on a raft, Kansas City police said in a statement.

Police and fire officials rushed to the scene after a report of an emergency and found the boy “dead from a fatal neck injury at the end of the ride, in the pool,” the statement said.

The two women on the raft suffered minor injuries to their faces and were hospitalized, it said.

The ride is more than 168 feet (51.4 meters) high, making it taller than the Statue of Liberty from torch to the top of its pedestal. The ride’s name means “insane” in German.

Park officials said in a statement that Schlitterbahn Kansas City would remain closed at least until Wednesday, while the slide would be shut down during the course of the investigation.

Police and a park spokeswoman declined to give additional details about the child’s death, including whether the child met the ride’s height requirement of 54 inches (1.37 meters) or whether the three riders and the raft met the weight requirement.

Schwab was the son of Kansas State Representative Scott Schwab, who said in a statement the family was devastated.

“Caleb was an incredible young man,” the family’s pastor, Clint Sprague, told a news conference. He was “full of life, loved baseball, basketball, soccer. He was always doing something.”

The Verrückt water slide is the tallest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. The park postponed the 2014 opening of the slide three times to ensure safety.

Kansas state Senator Pat Pettey said the tragedy occurred during the park’s “elected officials day” and that she was at the site.

Pettey said in a telephone interview she left the park before the incident that led to the boy’s death. She said relatives of hers who stayed at the park had seen blood on the slide.

Under Kansas law, the state Department of Labor has jurisdiction over amusement parks, which must inspect their rides every 12 months with state officials authorized to conduct random inspections.

The incident will likely lead to a discussion in the state legislature about how water parks are regulated, she said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Bernard Orr and Paul Tait)

Shooting after Florida nightclub’s teen party leaves two dead

Shooting at Club Blu crime scene

By Frank McGurty

(Reuters) – Shots erupted outside a party for teenagers at a Florida nightclub early on Monday, killing two people and wounding as many as 17 others in the latest burst of gun violence to wrack the state this summer, according to authorities.

The shooting in Fort Myers took place just after 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT) in the parking lot of Club Blu, where officers found “several victims suffering from gunshot wounds,” the city police department said in a statement.

Besides the two fatalities, a local hospital said there were 17 other victims, ranging between ages 12 and 27. Police put the number of wounded at 14 to 16, with their injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.

Investigators had yet to determine a motive and were trying to identify the two people who were killed, the statement said. Police said three people had been detained for questioning and that the area was deemed safe, although roads in the vicinity remained closed.

The shooting came six weeks after a massacre at a nightclub in the Florida city of Orlando, where a lone gunman who sympathized with Islamist extremist groups killed 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Club Blu, located about 150 miles southwest of Orlando in the Gulf Coast city of Fort Myers, was hosting a “swimsuit glow party” for people all ages, according to a flyer posted on Twitter by local television station WINK. To enter, patrons were not required to show proof that they were the legal age to drink alcoholic beverages.

The nightclub said on its Facebook page that the shooting occurred when the venue was closing and parents were picking up their children.

“We tried to give the teens what we thought was a safe place to have a good time,” the statement said, pointing out that armed security guards were posted inside and outside the club. “It was not kids at the party that did this despicable act.”

Cheryl Garn, a spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, said victims arriving there were as young as 12 years old. One of them died at the hospital, she said in a statement, while three others were admitted, one of them in critical condition and one in serious condition. The second victim died at the scene of the shooting.

Police said shots were also fired at a nearby residence, where there was one minor injury.

Fort Myers police and the Lee County’s Sheriff’s Office were canvassing the area for other people who may have been involved, the statement said.

Representatives of the law enforcement agencies could not immediately be reached for further comment.

The night before the Orlando nightclub shooting, a man thought to be a deranged fan fatally shot Christina Grimmie, a rising singing star, while she was signing autographs after a concert in that city.

(Reporting by Frank McGurty in New York; Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York and Mary Milliken in Los Angeles; Editing by Catherine Evans and Lisa Von Ahn)

Nine Soldiers identified in Fort Hood, Texas flooding tragedy

Undated photograph of the U.S. Army post at Fort Hood, Texas

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Nine U.S. soldiers are now known to have died when a troop carrier overturned this week during a training exercise at the U.S. Army base of Food Hood in Texas, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said on Saturday.

“Based on initial reports it was a troop carrier that overturned in a stream,” Carter told a news conference on the sidelines of a security conference in Singapore in reference to Thursday’s incident.

“An investigation is under way. As always, we’ll get to the bottom of this incident and others that occurred this week.”

Also on Thursday, a pilot from the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron was killed when his F/A-18 fighter crashed in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Marine Captain Jeff Kuss of Durango, Colorado, had taken off to start a practice ahead of a weekend air show when he went down about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the runway.

In Colorado the same day, a pilot with the Air Force’s Thunderbirds squadron was unhurt when his F-16 jet crashed in a field 5 miles (8 km) south of Peterson Air Force Base.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Tom Hogue)