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From the Heart of an Officer- Major Marion Durham

Today in Parkland….

The Family Assistance Center was much less crowded today. School will begin again next week so it was great to give away backpacks and gift cards to replace items lost in the quick evacuation of the school.

I enjoyed meeting therapy ponies along with the usual comfort dogs who have been here all week.

Today’s stories…

The first was an answer to prayer. We met a young woman yesterday who had left her bag in the classroom which included her identification papers. She’s a Canadian citizen and wanted to go home for a few days respite with her father. I woke up last night thinking about her and praying for her for many reasons. She was desperately working through her anger and had gotten a tattoo with Stoneman Douglas’ motto to honor her fallen classmates. First thing this morning she and her mother came back to the Center to book a flight through the resources there (thanks JetBlue) because school had made an exception and she got her papers back. Side note: she wasn’t in the freshman building. They may never get their items from that crime scene.

Also met a couple of young men today who were so impressive. They were sweet freshman, complete with smooth skin and braces on their teeth. The first wanted to replace a soccer jersey in memory of his lost friend. The other in particular is a hero. He herded 20 people into a classroom closet. They were really packed in there. His mother showed us the pictures he texted, including the pitch black one when they turned the light off to hide as they heard screaming and gunshots. They were Colombian and we held hands with the family and Enrique Azuaje prayed over them in Spanish.

Billy Graham died today. The Billy Graham Chaplain Ministry has been here all week too. They spend quite a bit of time at The Memorial and have had a beautiful presence. I wanted to go offer my condolences to them as they offer grief counseling to folks here, but it seemed unnecessary. Promoted to Glory and Home at last, they carry on his ministry in Jesus Name.

From the Heart of an Officer- Major Marion Durham

Today in Parkland…

Another day of listening and serving. The team has noticed blank stares on the faces of teenagers and the tears of many grateful parents. It’s a privilege to offer to pay the rent of a single Mom or hold hands with a family in prayer who are humbled to receive financial assistance. Or give a gift card to replace a backpack that is being held by police instead of full of textbooks on a child’s shoulder.

Today’s story…

We met the parents of one young man who was in his second surgery today on his foot which had been shattered by a bullet. He had faced the shooter and was hit while diving out of the way. The surgeon was rebuilding the tendon. His Mom shared a photograph and it showed in graphic detail how much damage had been done. They were so happy to be able have grocery gift cards to feed out of town family who have come in to support them. Our visit was quick because they needed to get back to the hospital and I was relieved that they could go there rather than hold a funeral.

I’ve been happy and sad today as well. I’m missing Mary Beth’s chorus concert tonight. Her Daddy is recording her pieces and no matter how they sound, I am proud of my beautiful, loving, leader of a daughter. She’s a freshman in high school like students here who were buried today. I get to go home to her in a few days and for this I am grateful.

From the Heart of an Officer- Major Marion Ward Durham

I was there earlier in the morning before the center opened today because there was a media tour to promote all the services being offered at The Family Assistance Center. So much Great work is being done by many agencies. From the FBI, to Senator Rubio’s office, and charities like us and everyone in between.

The center is in a park so today during a break it felt good to walk the fields and paths to get a few steps in. I found another memorial on the soccer field for a lost player. On my way back inside there were so many more people and flowers.

Another group that’s been here and helpful to many are the comfort dogs. There’s usually about a half a dozen at a time on the campus.

A story…

A school board member stopped by our table and we had a very good conversation about the choices they have to make about the future, problems to solve about staff, traumatized students who need to finish the year (especially seniors) and his tour of the crime scene the night before. It seemed as if he needed to process what was happening too. Just like parents. Just like the students. A few minutes later, I called him back over and asked if I could pray for him and others in Parkland Leadership. They need wisdom and discernment. He readily agreed.

It’s good to be a Salvation Army Officer.