Marshall County community gathers for vigils in wake of school shooting

Brock Kirk/The News

Story by Emily Williams, Features Editor 

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, tragedy struck the halls and hearts of Marshall County High School. A 15-year-old student opened fire in the early hours of the school day, taking two young lives and injuring 18 more. In the wake of such a devastating event, many churches, prayer groups and support groups gathered together on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to cry, to pray and to offer support for one another in the midst of heartbreaking news.

The church family of First Missionary Baptist Church of Benton, home to several Marshall County High School students and Marshall County natives, was one of many churches that gathered together for a time of prayer and reflection on Tuesday night.

Alan Miller, Senior Pastor of First Missionary Baptist, was on the scene at Marshall County High School shortly after the events of the morning began to unfold. He offered words of comfort to the congregation on Tuesday night along with accounts of what he had seen that day.

“I can honestly tell you that everything can seem like a distant dream until you talk to a parent whose son is being life-flighted to Vanderbilt,” Miller said. “To talk to them on the phone in that moment, brings this to a whole other reality.”

Miller said their church congregation chose to worship in the midst of this tragedy because they believe that God can redeem and work through all situations.

“We do it on a Sunday morning when life is good,” Miller said to the congregation. “Tonight, we’re going to do it on a Tuesday night, when we need him [God] the most and when our community needs it the most.”

The crowd at the vigil held at least ten Marshall County High School students, along with students from surrounding county schools such as North and South Marshall.

Kaitlin Lindsay, member of First Missionary Baptist Church and Marshall County High School alumnus, said as a former student at Marshall, hearing the news of what had happened while being at work was devastating.

“Knowing that I stood and hung out in the same place of this tragic event five years ago had me in disbelief,” Lindsay said. “I wanted to believe it was all a nightmare but it wasn’t. It was real.”

Lindsay said what she saw from the back of the church building at the vigil after the shooting broke her heart.

“To see students who had to go through this terrible day cry and hug on each other brought me to tears,” Lindsay said. “No 15 or 18 year old should have to go through what they are going through right now.”

But for Lindsay, the vigil was something that helped her see past her grief and look forward to brighter days and a brighter future.

“As I sat there and listened to our pastor speak to the crowd, it gave me hope for our future and for the students that have to enter those doors at the school again soon,” Lindsay said. “These next days, months, and even years are not going to be easy for anyone but, I know with Christ in the middle of it all, somehow our community will rise above this.”

Vigils were held in various locations across the counties on Tuesday and Wednesday, including but not limited to, surrounding county high schools, local companies and organizations.