By Michael J. ARVIZU
Glendale Community College staff held a brief prayer service at the school’s flagpole on Thursday morning for the victims of last Friday’s mass shootings in Connecticut.
Jenny McMahon, who works in the college’s admissions and records office, organized the service. She was not at GCC the day of the shooting. It was only after she returned to campus on Monday and saw students walking down the college’s hallways as they went to class that the full impact of the shootings gripped her.
“It was devastating,” she said. “When I heard the news, I asked, ‘Why?’ I was very distressed and saddened and hurt for all the children.”
Twenty children and six adults lost their lives Dec. 14 when Adam Lanza, armed with a military-style assault rifle, blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Among the dead were the school’s psychologist, Mary Sherlach, and the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung. First grade teacher Victoria Soto was also killed. She was shot to death as she shielded her students from Lanza’s bullets.
As the college’s U.S. and California state flags fluttered in the chilly morning wind at half-mast, McMahon began Thursday’s 10-minute service by reading a poem written by Cameo Smith of Mount Wolf, PA. Titled “’Twas 11 Days Before Christmas,” Smith’s poem is written in the same meter as the classic holiday poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and has gone viral on Facebook and other social media.
About 15 staff members attended the service. After the poem was read, all held hands around the flagpole and a prayer was quietly recited.
McMahon organized the service as a way for her colleagues to express their emotions and grieve for those who died. By holding the prayer service, McMahon hopes her co-workers will come together and look for healing instead of trying to cope with the tragedy alone.
“Prayer is extremely important,” said Kris Hanna, an employee in the college’s visual and performing arts division. “It allows us to keep our minds open and listen to God’s answer.”
Prayer services at the flagpole have been held at GCC even before the shootings and are organized from time to time, as appropriate, said McMahon. The services are open to all faiths. The college also holds a prayer service each year to commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Prayer gives us eternal hope,” said Olga Tovar, an employee in the college’s student outreach services division. “It is very powerful and can go places that people can’t get to.”