Hope and Healing service held for the West End community
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS At a prayer service for hope and healing at Our Lady Queen of Peace, three white candles were lit to represent the three men who lost their lives in the shooting Monday night at the Ross Township supervisors' meeting.
Three white candles burned softly below the cross of Jesus one for each of the three men who lost their lives Monday night at the Ross Township supervisors meeting: Dave Fleetwood, 62, Gerard Kozic, 53 and James LaGuardia, 64.
The candles stood in stark contrast to the almost 500 hundred people who attended Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network's prayer service for hope and healing at Our Lady Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Brodheadsville.
"I can't imagine what it was to have been in Ross Township that night. Whenever we experience a shock, to be with family and friends gives us comfort. That is what tonight is about. We reach out to those who lost Dave, Jerry and Jim," said the Rev. Michael Quinnan of Our Lady Queen of Peace, as he opened the service after the congregation sang "Amazing Grace."
Pastor Harry Laubach of St. Mark's Community Lutheran Church of Appenzell, Pastor Ann Melot from Zion United Lutheran Church, Brodheadsville, and Pastor Robin Fisher from Effort United Methodist Church, Effort, read scripture.
Pastor Tresita Beach of St. Peter's UMC, Saylorsburg, began her sermon by asking all those who had been at the Ross Township municipal building Monday night to stand "so we can honor you." She said. "We thank God for your safety."
She recounted how those at the church on Monday night heard the shots, and watched as medevac helicopters landed in the church's parking lot.
"Lives have changed since Monday night."
She said that some may be ready to blame God because why would he allow this to happen, but she reminded those in attendance that light overcomes darkness.
"One small candle can dispel the darkness in a whole community. Every act of love, every act of kindness, every act of forgiveness, every act of hope brings us into the light."
When something tragic like this happens, first there is disbelief, then fear, then anger.
"Anger is a useless emotion ... God didn't pull the trigger. Darkness pulled the trigger," she said.
She reminded us that God has given us free will.
"As in the heroes of that night, they will have their rewards in heaven. Some kept a terrible act of darkness from being worse than it was."
"We can't give in to negativity," she appealed. "God will heal us because He loves us ... Right now at this moment we can begin healing."
Jill Gallina and Daniel Smale sang "Lift Me Up."
Rosemary Brown, Pennsylvania state representative, said that this was the most difficult week she can ever recall. Because of a senseless act of violence, the community lost three of its own.
"What sets this apart is that all three men were men who cared about their community," she said.
She then thanked those that subdued the gunman and to those who acted heroically that night. The entire congregation began to applaud and then almost as one, rose to give those heroes a standing ovation.
Mario Scavello, Pennsylvania state representative, said he was humbled to be there and that his love goes out to the families of the three men, especially Fleetwood's.
"I've known Dave for 25 years from being involved with the Little League. With Dave you always got 100 percent.
"Without Bernie Kozen and Mark Kresh, this tragedy could have been worse," he said.
He closed with an excerpt from the Prayer of St. Francis: "Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy."
Howard Beers, Ross Township supervisor chairman, on behalf of Ross Township supervisors, stated, "The unthinkable happened. Three men had their lives taken. Many were injured, physically and mentally."
He said they were "thankful for men like these who offered their own special qualities to their community.
"We must gather together in unity to move forward."
He implored everyone to "live every day as if it was your last. Take time for your family. Cherish every moment you're here ... as we choose to move forward in support of each other, we will come out wiser and stronger."
Chris Eckert, a Chestnuthill Township supervisor, said he didn't know all three of the men who died, but he did know his fellow supervisor and friend, Dave Fleetwood.
"Those who knew him, knew what he did and how he touched so many lives in so many ways. Dave would be embarrassed by all the attention he's getting now. He would want us to pitch in to help the community. He'd tell us to grab a shovel, help the Boy Scouts, do something to make our community better," he said.
Eckert continued, "Let's not let this tragedy define us. Let's do what Dave would want us to and serve our community. Make someone's life better. Do it for Dave."
U.S. Congressman Matt Cartright said he and his wife were dumbfounded and stricken when they heard the news.
"But it's also heartening to see all these people come together," he said.
"We come together, take stock and move on. We reach for the positive. That's who we are," he said.
He said he called his friends Gabby Giffords (former U.S. Rep. for Arizona) and Elizabeth Esty (U.S. Rep. for Connecticut) and asked them for advice in dealing with the families.
"They told me, don't intrude upon the privacy of these people, but make sure they know you are there for them. That's what Rosemary, Mario, Mike and I want you to know."
The service concluded with a candlelight vigil followed by a prayer from Pastor Deborah Scheffey of Salem St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Kresgeville and the singing of "Let There Be Peace On Earth."
Everyone was invited to spend time together in the fellowship hall.