NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) — Six crosses stood near the entrance of the road leading to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville. One for each of the victims of Monday’s mass shooting at the elementary school run by the church.
Three 9-year-old students. Three adults, including the head of the school.
Behind the crosses was a sign advertising the church’s upcoming Easter services. In front of them were rows of flowers left by mourning friends and neighbors.
Among those grieving neighbors who left flowers on Wednesday (March 29) was Sabina Mohyuddin, who’d been at her nearby home on the morning of the shooting.
At first, she said, she thought there had been a traffic accident — there’s a fire station not far away and the sounds of sirens are fairly common.
Then she got the alert about the shooting and was filled with disbelief and grief.
Like many in Nashville, Mohyuddin, executive director of the Nashville-based American Muslim Advocacy Council, turned to prayer, believing God’s compassion would be with all the victims of the shootings and their families.
She also prayed something would change so these kinds of shootings, which have become all too common, would come to an end.
“You can’t go back to life as normal,” she said in a phone interview, while on her way to a downtown Nashville prayer rally for victims of the shooting. “We really need to do some soul-searching.”
Pastors and other faith leaders in the community have rallied around Covenant, offering their space and other support. The church and school are still considered crime scenes and it’s unclear whether Covenant Presbyterian will be able to host funerals or have worship at the church building on Sunday.
The first funeral for a shooting victim will likely be on Friday. Woodmont Christian Church, not far from Covenant, will host a celebration of life for 9-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus, a Covenant student killed in the shooting. Her parents are part of Woodmont.
“Their daughter Evelyn was a shining light and an amazing person,” Woodmont pastor Clay Stauffer told a Nashville television station. “We’re surrounding them and picking them up — helping them move forward.”