School administrators, lawmen, government representatives, parents, students and clergy gathered in the First United Methodist Church fellowship hall for a rally and summit Sunday night in the wake of the latest school shooting tragedy in Parkland, FL, that left 17 students and adults dead and many more wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

School administrators, lawmen, government representatives, parents, students and clergy gathered in the First United Methodist Church fellowship hall for a rally and summit Sunday night in the wake of the latest school shooting tragedy in Parkland, FL, that left 17 students and adults dead and many more wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

 The gunman weilding a AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle set off fire alarms at the Florida high school, luring hundreds of students out of their classrooms so he could open fire on them.    

 The suspect, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, then dropped his weapon and hid among the crowd as authorities evacuated students and faculty members.

 Police captured Cruz over an hour later in Coral Springs, located about a mile away. He was taken to a local hospital and then released into police custody. Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.  Fourteen others were wounded in the shooting, including several with life-threatening injuries.

 Such tragedies have become all-too-common, and rally organizers want to focus the community at-large on the threat and the need to be both proactive and vigilant, compassionate and aware going forward in hopes that a similar tragedy doesn’t happen here.

 Todd Ritchie served as emcee for the “Not Here-We Care” rally which featured FUM Pastor Ken Peters, Pastor Chris Skeens of Ravenswood Freewill Baptist Church, Pastor Joe Hill, UM District Superintendent, and Pastor Karin Ritchie representing the clergy.

  Ravenswood High School Principal Jimmy Frashier addressed the gathering about protocols at the high school and how building and maintaining relationships and communication with students is among the most important measures.

  Veteran educator and coach Mick Price echoed that sentiment, along with the need to set good examples as adult mentors, remain attentive and be involved.

 Ravenswood Chief of Police Lance Morrison and RvHS PRO Tom Speece provided some no-holds-barred reality checks into the dangers faced in today’s society with drugs, mental illness and violence becoming a daily concern at all levels of society.

 Said Speece, “I’m convinced the days of closing the classroom doors, turning off the lights and hiding are gone. We need teachers to keep their classroom doors locked at all times. In a Code Red situation, that can deter the threat until I and other officers can get there.”

 Speece said additional school safety enhancements are needed, but noted his relationship developed with the students has paid off greatly in already stopping some potential dangers through tips received.

 County Commissioner Mitch Morrison noted that a shooting at Ripley High School years ago was the first locally. He said he believes a PRO at every county school is imperative, and that the commissioners are  working to get that accomplished. 

 RvHS senior Jalen Wayt lamented the hesitation by state and national government officials to take decisive action regarding assault rifles, but also pointed to the removal of prayer and Bible-reading from schools in the 1960s as the beginning of America’s downward slide.

 RvHS students Caleb Maxson and Hunter VanKirk presented a musical tribute to those lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 UM District Superintendent Joe Hill challenged each attendee to decide what he or she will do personally to make a difference.

 Video clips from the Parkland tragedy and its aftermath punctuated the evening’s agenda.

 The rally ended with an open discussion led by Pastor Ritchie, and the pledge that the push for proactive community efforts will continue through future meetings, mentorships, prayer and involvement across the board.