OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Hundreds of people, shell-shocked and in tears from the shooting rampage at Oxford High School in Michigan that left three dead and eight more injured, showed up at three different prayer services Tuesday night, looking for comfort and meaning amid the devastation.
They spanned the ages — students in Oxford varsity jackets and sweatshirts in blue and gold, the school’s colors; parents with worry etched on their faces; community members who never thought anything like this could happen in their little enclave in northern Oakland County.
“This is the thing you read about on the news, that happens in other places,” said Kim Kozel, 51, of Lake Orion, one of about 300 people who attended a prayer vigil at Kensington Church in Lake Orion. She’d spent much of the afternoon worried about her son, an employee of the school district’s IT department who travels between schools during the day, only to learn that he was on lockdown at the middle school during the shooting.
“I don’t think I’ve processed it yet,” Kozel said, rattled. “It’s been a lot.”
“Just about all of Oxford hurts,” Pastor Jesse Holt told a crowd of more than 200, at LakePoint Community Church in Oxford Township. When seating ran out, dozens stood for the service. Several held onto each other for comfort. Then, sharing a common flame, they lit candles each had been given. And they wept.
Everything we know:Oxford High School shooting leaves 3 dead, multiple injured
It’s impossible to know how every student, every teacher, every parent will be affected by the shooting, which police say was carried out by a 15-year-old student armed with a semiautomatic handgun. But later in the service, Holt asked students who were at the school Tuesday to stand.
“Father,” Holt said, “I pray that you would bless them in what they do. I pray for the next coming days that if there is anxiety, there are nightmares, there are difficulties that come from it, that you will give them peace as I have prayed.”
The message was similar at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion, Michigan. “Our whole community, our whole family of faith has been affected,” said the Rev. John Carlin. “We’re offering up this Mass for the repose of their souls, for the comfort of those who are wounded and for the family members.
“This Mass is offered especially for them as a Mass of peace, and asking the Lord to give us his peace.”
Carlin said he heard about the shooting Tuesday afternoon during a penance service. “The Lord was calling me, saying I’m really supposed to be with my people right now,” Carlin said, adding that the St. Joseph parish school went into lockdown upon getting word of the shooting at Oxford High School. “Something told me, that as a priest, as a father of a community, I’m supposed to be there for them. I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to do.”
He said he drove to the Meijer store, to which the students and staff from the high school were evacuated, praying along the way.
“I am asking the Lord. I’m just in prayer with the Lord, asking, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ … I don’t have superpowers. I can’t fix everything that’s going on. What kind of peace am I supposed to bring to anybody, let alone to my heart?” Carlin said.
And that, he said, is when he realized the answer was to comfort them with faith and trust in the Lord in the darkest of times.
“Every time we experience a loss of friends or loved ones or something that we don’t understand, the Lord wants not only to walk with us through that darkness but to let us know that he is there, and he’s not going anywhere and he never will,” Carlin said.
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