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In leggings, hoodies and sneakers, Oxford students mourn at church vigil

vigil
Survivors, friends and loved ones, as well as surrounding community members can be at risk of emotional distress following a tragedy, displaying a variety of reactions. (Bridge photo by Paula Gardner)

LAKE ORION—Tuesday evening, at least 300 teenagers walked in groups into the massive sanctuary of Kensington Church in Lake Orion. Under a window of holiday lights, they looked like high schoolers anywhere. The girls wore leggings, ripped jeans or pajama pants. The boys, hoodies and sneakers. 

Paired with friends and sometimes a parent, they greeted each other with hugs. But as the prayer vigil unfolded, and teens were called to the front of the church for a special prayer following a shooting rampage at Oxford High School, tears rolled down many of their faces. 

A tall, thin teen in a light winter jacket sat near the back and sobbed, gone with grief, before falling into the arms of a man who brought him.    

“This is a generation that we love,” lead pastor Craig McGlassion told the crowd. “And the enemy,” he said, “cannot have them.”

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The nondenominational church, a few miles south of Oxford, was one of several sites where northern Oakland County residents gathered following Tuesday’s shootings, which left three students dead and eight others wounded. 

Throughout the day, students, families and residents came together in disbelief and shock. The Meijer on Lapeer Road closed to customers shortly after the violence so fleeing students could reunite with parents. Others kept vigil outside the trauma entrance at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac. 

And as darkness fell, hundreds of cars overfilled the parking lot of Kensington Church as people gathered once more, this time to mourn and share hugs. 

“Their hearts have been broken,” Jeremiah Roy, a minister at the church, told Bridge.

McGlassion, the pastor, reminded the students, teachers and families that gathered that their tears represent the start of healing.

“Real healing is people getting in and being with one another,” he said. “Seeing our kids in here, especially our teen boys, who can have that stereotype of being a tough guy.

“These boys and girls are just being very raw and that will help them help one another.”

The coming days will include rage and anger as students process what they experienced and the loss they feel, McGlassion said.

Church leaders offered pastoral counseling to everyone who attended the service, where the names of the shooting victims and the alleged assailant were never spoken.

They sought to inspire the crowd to turn to their faith, to prayer and to each other. It’s hoped, the pastor said, that the community will recognize the value of kindness in the world.

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