Pastor Zach (our senior pastor) and I were invited to a morning meeting today with the mayor of Madison, the police chief, Madison city school officials, many other city officials, and pastors of the Madison and surrounding areas. They wanted to make sure we were fully aware of what happened, what was currently happening, and what the plan is. So after this meeting, here are a few more things I am learning to do and not do when tragedies like this strike.
1. Make sure to get the story straight and do not speculate. The real story they released to us was that between classes at 1:45pm, a student did shoot to kill his one targeted victim. Within seconds, the shooter was on the ground with a school official on top of him. Within seconds, a school policeman was on the scene. Within seconds, school medical staff was with the victim. And within moments, the entire school had their students locked safely in the classrooms and entire campus was on lockdown. Only more than an hour after that did the school dismiss their students to their parents in an orderly fashion. We are very thankful to school and city officials for their quick reponse and the way they handled this tragedy with precision.
2. Do not talk about, pass along, or post “hear-say”. This tragedy does not involve gangs. The event was neither a RACIAL or a RELIGIOUS issue. It was between two inviduals only. The police believe they have a motive, but they will not release it because they do not want to risk losing the case when it comes to trial in the future. We must do everything we can to help them in that. We do not need to post or pass along anything that we have merely heard or read that is not confirmed by the news. We need to be very respectful to the familes and helpful to the officials by not continuing gossip, rumors, or anything that even has a possibility of being inaccurate. If the media (national or local) confronts you, it is best not to speak or share any details seen or heard except for the fact that we hurt with the community, we are praying for the community, and we are looking forward to continuing to live in the great area of Madison, AL. Remember that social networking like facebook and twitter make communication instant, constant, permanent, and global. What you post will be read, often believed, affects people’s lives, and cannot be undone.
3. Our community and schools are safe. They assured us that they are going to every measure possible to assure our kids, our students, and our parents that our schools and community will be safer than ever. This is coming from the mayor, the school officials, and the Madison police. The answer to safety is not external measures like metal detectors, but changing the culture of the schools. Our students must feel safe to report any wrong doing they know of. Our students must be involved in spreading the gospel of Christ which will elimnate sin as Jesus spreads His Lordship.
I think the two biggest things to remember here is to be very careful and do not post on facebook or twitter any details or specifics to this event. Use this as an opportunity to pass along the name of Jesus Christ to others who are looking for hope, relief, faith, etc. Also, continue to counsel your friends with God’s Word, point them to Christ, pray with them, and invite them to be a part of a church that is focussed on life in Christ through His Word!