Hundreds Come Together Following Shooting in Normal
By Charlie Schlenker
More than 400 people turned out for a prayer observance Sunday evening at Normal Community High School in the wake of the hostage situation at the school just a couple of days earlier.
No one was hurt when shots were fired at the high school on Friday morning. Police took a 14-year-old boy into custody in connection with the incident after he reportedly showed up to class, and pulled out a gun, hatchet, pills, and a container of kerosene from his backpack. The young man forced his teacher and classmates to listen to his problems.
Shubhang Desai said he was held at gunpoint in the classroom. Speaking during the prayer vigil on Sunday, Desai said it was important for him to support his fellow classmates. Desai admits he is a little nervous about returning to school.
"It's going to be a little bit scary, but I'm glad we won't have to go back into the same classroom," Desai said. "A lot of people are going to act really different. They're going to notice the smaller things more, and be thankful for the things that they have. And I'm glad for that."
Unit Five has switched the health class where the incident occurred to a different room. The teacher of that class helped disarmed the gunman.
There were no physical injuries. Shubhang's mother, Pinky Desai, said her extended family has been calling from India for comfort.
"On Friday, he was in a bad shape, but yesterday he had his friend came over for a sleepover," she said. "I think he's getting better. He'll be fine soon."
After scripture readings, the crowd broke up into small groups around the perimeter of the school to pray. The person whose Facebook post started the gathering said she is thankful for the result. Julie Heinold said a turnout of 400 people was more than she expected.
"I was kind of expecting maybe 20," Heinold said. "I thought it might be my family and a couple of others, so we're really excited about that. But it's really not about numbers, it's about people needing to heal and about people needing the peace and comfort that we know only comes through God."
Some students of NCHS say they appreciate the support from the prayer group.
Counselors will be available at the school. Meanwhile, students who were unable to retrieve their belongings following the evacuation of the high school may do so Monday morning before classes start up.