Class was just about to end for the day when gunshots rang out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday. As some students hid in classrooms, others ran out of the building to get away from the bullets.
Law enforcement officials are reporting 17 fatalities and have a 19-year-old former student in custody.
“Pray for the students, staff, and families affected by the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school today,” Franklin Graham posted on Facebook shortly after the attack. “Also lift up law enforcement and first responders in your prayers.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) has sent a group of 13 crisis-trained chaplains to the area to help offer emotional and spiritual care to the many people who are suffering from this horrific incident.
Several chaplains are already on the ground, and have spoken with several people who are shaken up and are in a state of shock from the event.
“Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is here and ready to be used in any way we can be used,” said crisis-trained chaplain Ray Bombardieri, who talked with an emotional mother of four teachers.
“It’s a day that you pray, every day that I get up, that we will never have to see,” Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
This is the fifth Rapid Response Team deployment of 2018. Every deployment so far this year has been prompted by a shooting. Currently, a team of chaplains is on the ground in Westerville, Ohio, in response to the killing of two police officers over the weekend. Another team is ministering in Richardson, Texas, where an officer was shot and killed last Wednesday.
The mission of the RRT is to ensure God’s hope in times of tragedy and provide a ministry of presence to those who are hurting. With 3,200 students enrolled at the high school, the RRT anticipates the emotional and spiritual need to be great.
“Our hearts go out to all those whose lives have been turned upside down due to this incident. We ask everyone to be praying,” said Jack Munday, international director of the RRT. “Pray for all those directly affected by this—the injured, the students, the parents, the faculty and law enforcement.”