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Crisis Care: How VA Baptist Chaplains Have Responded Since the Mass Shooting in Virginia Beach

Carol Horton with a therapy dog

Posted: 8/12/19 at 9:00am. Article by Carol Horton.

The Virginia Baptist Disaster Response Crisis Care Team Chaplains were called into service during the months of June and July after a fatal shooting by a disgruntled employee at the Virginia Beach Public Works Office claimed the lives of 11 employees and one citizen on May 31. Four other employees were also injured in the incident. The shooter, a 15-year veteran of the public works office and civil engineer, was fatally shot after a standoff with police.

The Virginia Beach Emergency Management Services organized the incident aftercare services, which was headquartered in one of the public works buildings.

Virginia Baptist chaplains worked alongside other chaplains and volunteer counselors in making themselves readily available for moral assistance and prayer-and-faith-based support if requested as employees gradually returned to work. Emotional and physical assistance was needed as the building where the shooting took place was closed and employees were relocated into various other buildings.

Virginia Baptist chaplains were able to assist employees in private conversations when needed and also help employees adjust to their new surroundings. Snacks and bottled water were available for everyone at all times, and the Virginia Beach Garden Club provided green plants to add positivity to the new working environment.

Therapy dogs made regular visits to the buildings, and a June 27 memorial service, sponsored by the City of Virginia Beach, was televised for the employees who elected not to attend the live service.

“I was very impressed by the support survivors were given by the city,” said Linda LeFever, a Virginia Baptist chaplain who helped with counseling and relocating employees.

During the evenings, the Virginia Baptist chaplains were welcomed warmly by host families from Virginia Beach churches. Hosts provided meals, Christian companionship, and a comfortable place to stay for the responding chaplains, who each served several days as crisis-care providers.

Carol Horton is a Virginia Baptist Chaplain. To learn more about Virginia Baptist Disaster Response, visit their website.