Letters to the Editor

Healing was goal in response to deadly shooting | Letters

Makeshift memorials at Pinewood Village Apartments in Federal Way, as seen on April 23, 2013. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Makeshift memorials at Pinewood Village Apartments in Federal Way, as seen on April 23, 2013.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

Last week, The Mirror published an article critiquing our community’s response to the Pinewood Village Apartment shootings. I found it to be unfair.

How do you help people heal? How do you give back a sense of safety to someone who has had it ripped away?

When my kids are in danger, I protect them. When they are confused, I counsel them. When they are frightened, I comfort them. And no one second-guesses me; no one questions my motives or criticizes my performance. No one is offended that they aren’t allowed to participate. They understand that, in this moment, my kids are the most important thing.

Last month, our leaders looked tragedy in the eye and responded admirably. The City of Federal Way, our city, experienced a violent tragedy that claimed the lives of four community members and their assailant. There was danger, there was confusion and there was fear. The danger was quickly confronted, but what of the confusion and the fear?

The decision was made to gather the residents of the Pinewood Village Apartments and family members of the victims, to lead them through a Critical Incident Stress Debrief.

In other words, our police department, fire department and public officials made themselves available to those most deeply affected by these events to help them begin the healing process — to deal with the confusion and the fear. Because the larger community was tangentially impacted, the first part of the meeting was open to any community member who felt the need to attend.

The meeting opened with a moment of silence for the victims and a prayer for the friends and families who remain. The chief of police, the mayor and the deputy mayor then addressed those who were gathered and spoke words of hope and comfort. Cmdr. Kyle Sumpter provided an overview of what had happened on the evening in question. And then, yes, those who were not residents of the complex or family members of victims were then asked to excuse themselves.

Why? Because healing does not take place under the watchful eyes of strangers and the media, no matter how invested or well-intentioned they may be. And healing was the priority that night. Our greatest responsibility that evening was to those most deeply affected, and they needed a safe place to process together what had happened to them. They needed to know, at that moment, that they were the most important thing.

They needed a place to grieve together, to be angry together and to find hope together. It was powerful. It was cathartic. And it was private.

Not a single elected official or first-responder complained when they were asked to leave. They quietly and humbly put the needs of the residents above their own interests. Not a single Pinewood resident complained about the lack of onlookers. They expressed an appreciation for the priority that was placed upon them.

This is Federal Way, not Boston. Our tragedy occurred in a single apartment complex where the victims lived in close proximity to one another. The Boston bombing involved thousands of participants from all over the globe, a weeklong manhunt and communities in lockdown. To compare our city’s response to Boston’s is not only unfair, but uninformed.

Post-tragedy breakdown? Hardly. Our leaders put the priority on people who were in pain and cared for them. They had the courage to create a space for those most directly affected to begin to heal. They opened the doors to City Hall, they provided transportation and they safeguarded their privacy. And they did it well.

As a local church pastor and a police chaplain, I had the privilege of participating in this meeting. I could not be more proud of our leaders than I was that night. It is moments like these that demonstrate the levels of integrity and care that assure us of a strong future.

If you are unhappy with how the meeting was conducted, you have that right. But please remember, that evening you weren’t the most important thing.

Pastor Jon McIntosh, Grace Church, Federal Way


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