Jack Munday is the international director for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. He was among 10 chaplain from the RRT deployed to Newtown, Conn., the day of the shooting. A year later, Munday shares his thoughts about the Sandy Hook tragedy.
I’ll never forget the morning of Dec. 14, 2012. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.
I had just landed in Minneapolis to find several voice and text messages alerting me to a tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
With news bulletins popping up on my phone and airport TV monitors reporting the breaking news, I called my office and we decided to send a Rapid Response Team of crisis-trained chaplains who had years of fire, police and emergency management experience to assess the need for emotional and spiritual care.
As God would have it, these specially-trained chaplains were already in the New Jersey and New York region as part of our response to Hurricane Sandy.
As the chaplains arrived just a few hours later at a police checkpoint near the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the police immediately invited the chaplains in and directed them to the Incident Command Center to offer support to the first responders who were first on the scene at the school.
Soon, the full and devastatingly tragic picture began to be known, as we came to understand that 26 innocent lives were taken inside Sandy Hook Elementary School that day. In addition, the shooter and his mother, who was also a teacher at the school, were dead.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of that day, I’d like to request that you do the same thing we asked of you one year ago. Please pray.
First, please pray for the families who experienced tremendous loss and are still healing. Many of us who responded to Newtown that day had difficulty shaking the mental image of the Christmas trees in homes across the village with wrapped presents underneath that would never be opened. Christmas for these families will never again mean what it means for most of us. As the anniversary – and this Christmas – approach, many of those same feelings of terror, hopelessness, loneliness, anger and depression may likely flow over these families in waves. Please pray that they would know God’s comfort and His continued healing.
Second, please pray for the Sandy Hook Elementary School staff and faculty, as well as the first responders and city officials who were directly impacted by this tragic loss of so many innocent lives. They signed up to serve their community, but could have never envisioned – or adequately trained for – what they encountered. They all faced unspeakable evil head-on with thoughts and emotions that may be tough to shake. Pray for God’s peace that passes all understanding, and mental, emotional and spiritual healing for each of them.
Finally, please pray for the local Newtown churches, pastors, counselors and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains who arrived that day – and over the coming days – who provided emotional and spiritual care for the first responders, families, residents, and community leaders. I speak for many when I say that it was a privilege to serve, to share God’s hope, and to be a shoulder to lean on for those that needed support.
However, the tragedy in Newtown impacted everybody, and many of us who came in to help continue to feel a burden, a deep sense of grief, from our time there. One year later, our chaplains still think about this senseless tragedy and pray for the families and many people we connected with when we were there.
We all continue to mourn the lives that were cut short on Dec. 14, 2012. In some ways, mental images and the incredible pain of that dark Connecticut December day continue to linger. Please hold your families close this season. Please know how precious life is. And, please pray for Newtown, remembering that the only source of true hope, comfort and healing is through Jesus Christ.
Learn more about the Rapid Response Team ministry here.