Headlines, Horror…and Hope

Sunday night, October 1. About 10:30 Pacific Time. As I plugged in my iPhone for the night, a breaking news banner rolled up on the screen. “Reports of active shooter in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Casino and concert.” Numerous similar banners lit up the screen in quick succession as news of the event unfolded, yet another headline in a two-month stretch of disasters and catastrophes in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean.

With one big exception. This one was manmade.

At that same instant, as I walked into the living room to turn on the TV, it suddenly dawned on me that our daughter, son-in-law, and one of our granddaughters (a former ALCS student) were in Las Vegas for the weekend attending a University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) football game. They were supposed to have come home that Sunday evening, but I hadn’t talked to them, and the Route 91 Harvest festival country music event would be something they would have loved to attend, should they have changed their plans. I texted, but no reply. I sent another text. Calls and texts followed, but nothing. Horror gripped me.

Finally, our daughter replied that they had come home as scheduled and were safe…but shared that they had contemplated staying in Las Vegas longer.

That same horror hit close to home for many.

One of our teachers here at ALCS shared that her recently-married daughter and newlywed husband were in Las Vegas. They weren’t even at the concert, but were walking in the area. Her daughter called, crying and breathless while they were running for their lives and trying to find cover. The phone hung up and there was no word until 3:00 a.m. Finally, the mother heard her daughter’s voice; they were safe.

A married couple—a new family here at ALCS—were at the concert with 22,000 other music enthusiasts. Through the terror and the carnage, they survived, with mom retelling her story through tears at a parent praying meeting this week.

For others, the horror led to personal heartbreak. Our office manager here at ALCS has a friend at her church whose daughter was killed at the concert.

Early Monday morning, I was informed that one of the parents at my previous school—whose three kids I taught and coached and with whom I sat with in the stands and talked on the sidelines—was killed Sunday night in Las Vegas. His two daughters were with him, but survived.

As of this writing, 58 people have died, with well over 500 people wounded or injured.

In response to the horrific Las Vegas shooting last Sunday night, U.S. President Donald Trump referenced Psalm 34:18, saying, “Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.” 3,4

While the nation grieved and prayer vigils were held, stories of heroism from the massacre began to emerge.1,2 Two young women, trying to hide under a table as the gunfire rained down on the crowd, were shielded by a complete stranger, who absorbed bullets in his own body to save their lives. In another act of heroism, a husband gave his life shielding his wife with his body. As the story of the unthinkable continued to be told, countless acts of self-sacrifice by those demonstrating extraordinary courage came to light. Many willingly risked or gave their lives in order to save others.

Writing for the National Review, David French noted, “These kinds of stories should challenge us all. Courage is only theoretical until put to the test, yet it’s remarkable the extent to which tragedy and fear have spawned bravery and selflessness.”1

In the wake of unspeakable tragedy, even in the midst of great heartbreak, voices of hope could be heard. Many leaders, from pastors to the President, offered prayers and referred to Scripture and the comfort and closeness of God.

Last Monday in an email to our families and staff, I asked our collective school community to respond in three ways:

(1) Pray. Pray for those affected, for healing physically and in every other way, and for God’s peace, comfort, and truth to be felt and known.
(2) Love. Events like these remind us to love on our kids and each other. Please take the opportunity to hug on your children and reassure them that they are loved…and reassure one another that each of us is loved, both by God and by each other.
(3) Be vigilant. While safety is always a priority, events like these remind us to watch even more carefully and attentively, and to be mindful of our surroundings, especially in proximity to our children and the school. We don’t expect this to have any direct bearing on our school safety and security, but as always, if something seems out of place, please let us know.

In his excellent October 4 blog on couragematters.com5, Michael Anthony offers parents recommendations on how to respond to our kids’ questions and fears (see the link at the end of this column; highly recommended). He gives ten key areas of guidance for parents:

(1) Remember that if you don’t pay attention to your child, someone else will.
(2) Pray for wisdom; you can do it.
(3) Assert yourself—be the parent or guardian you are meant to be.
(4) Share what they need to know, not necessarily all the details.
(5) Ask your child if your answers satisfy their curiosity. Help them stay away from seeking unhealthy, damaging information.
(6) Help your child understand that we are living outside of Eden, in a fallen world.
(7) Pray with your child, so he or she learns how to pray for the survivors and families affected.
(8) Do something positive and unifying.
(9) Be their shield—monitor what they watch or hear from the media.
(10) Be available and approachable.

God has given us the gifts of family, church, and Christian school to help us strengthen one another and process our feelings when bad things happen in the world, especially regarding our children.

As I said earlier this week, thank you for your ongoing support of a Christian school education marked by love and care at ALCS. You, your children, and your family are precious in His sight and ours, and we value you and love you deeply. May God bless you and give us peace, and we’ll see you around campus.

For the Glory of Christ and the Good of Our Kids,

Dr. Vance Nichols
Head of School
Alta Loma Christian School

1. From an online article by Veronica Neffinger. October 3, 2017. “Stories of Courage and Heroism Emerge in Wake of Las Vegas Shooting.” ChristianHeadlines.com. Retrieved from http://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/stories-of-courage-and-heroism-emerge-in-wake-of-las-vegas-shooting.html
2. Photo of mourners lighting candles during vigil for victims of mass shooting in Las Vegas; photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
3. From an online article by Leah Hickman. October 4, 2017. “A Hurting Nation Turns to Scripture for ‘Comfort’ and ‘Clarity.’” ChristianHeadlines.com. Retrieved from http://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/leah-hickman/a-hurting-nation-turns-to-scripture-for-comfort-and-clarity.html
4. Photo of U.S. President Donald Trump making a statement on the Las Vegas mass shooting; photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
5. From the October 4, 2017 Courage Matters blog by Michael Anthony. “What Happened in Vegas Won’t Stay in Vegas: How To Talk To Your Children When Tragedy Strikes.” couragematters.com. Retrieved from https://www.couragematters.com/talk-with-your-child-las-vegas-shooting/

Dr. Nichols (BS, MS, EdD) also serves as an adjunct professor of education and on the MSEd Specialization Advisory Council at California Baptist University, and on the Private School Advisory Council for California State Assemblyman Marc Steinorth. He recently completed a three-year term as commissioner and chair of the ACSI Southern California Regional Accreditation Commission, and was an educational researcher, organizational leadership theorist, and 2015 Innovation Scholar at the University of Southern California. His most recent published research—“Schools At Risk: An Analysis of Factors Endangering the Evangelical Christian School Movement in America”—can be accessed online at: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll40/id/294584/rec/82