BENTON—Area churches offered open doors, encouragement, and support to the Benton, Ky. community in the wake of a shooting at Marshall County High School on Jan. 23.
On Tuesday morning in the 8 a.m. hour, a 15-year-old student walked into the commons area and open fired. Two students (both 15 years old) were killed and 17 others were injured. Six of those injured were air lifted to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville with extensive injuries. The others were sent to regional hospitals and are in varying conditions.
"I think yesterday, I know for me personally and all the people that I talked to, was almost like you're sort of walking through a bad dream. You know it's real, but it doesn't feel real," Kory Cunningham, associate pastor at Hardin Baptist Church, located 20 minutes from the high school, said. He was on the scene by 8:30 that morning, and other pastors from the church joined him throughout the day.
"Several of our church members work in the school system and they ministered amazingly in the crisis and chaos. Many of them were in the location of the shooter and shooting," Hardin's pastor, Ricky Cunningham, was en route to the Amazon River to teach pastors, but fielded calls from the airport in Nashville all morning.
Kory Cunningham expressed thankfulness that all of Hardin's students who attend Marshall Co. were safe. However, many of them lost friends or were in the commons area when the shooting happened.
The church opened its doors from 12-2 p.m. for any student or family of a student who wanted to talk to or pray with a pastor or a counselor on Tuesday. Around 20-30 students and adults were in and out throughout this time.
Hardin's Wednesday night service will look different in light of this tragedy as well as the church combines youth and adult services for "just a night of scripture and prayer. We are going to try again to bring each other together and remind us of the things that really matter in life," Kory said.
"I can see very vividly Genesis 3 where we've walked away from God, and evil, sin, suffering, and all that was introduced into the world. We feel the brokenness very vividly yesterday," Kory continued. "I think that's a reality and that's why ultimately Christ came and gave His life so that all the brokenness could one day be swallowed up and there could be a new heaven and earth where these tragic events don't happen."
He added, "This pushes us to reflect on and realize that is the most precious and important thing even in this life that we have hope for the future."
Joseph Brown, a 2015 graduate of Marshall County High School and member of Hardin Baptist, challenged those in his community via Facebook, "I beg any student that needs to talk to someone to please go to a counselor or talk to someone. It's so important to talk about how you feel and what's on your mind or something you saw, to someone that you can trust or get an answer from. The power of prayer is still strong." His little brother currently attends Marshall Co. High School.