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After Saugus High School shooting, prayer unites a grieving community

Grace Baptist Church
People gather for prayer Thursday night at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita after a deadly shooting at nearby Saugus High School.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A day that began with the shock of a school shooting in Santa Clarita ended in prayer for many families who gathered for vigils in the area.

Standing before hundreds of people at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on Thursday night, Pastor David Hegg acknowledged that students and parents may be grappling with how to make sense of the shooting at Saugus High School, which left two students dead and three injured.

“We’re not here to diminish the pain that we feel. We’re not here to anesthetize it,” he said. “We’re also not here to put God on the stand.... We’re here to be reminded that we’re not alone.”

The violence started at 7:30 a.m. Authorities say a 16-year-old boy pulled a handgun from his backpack in the campus quad and shot five students before turning the gun on himself. A 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy died. The suspect and two other students remain hospitalized; one has been released.

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At the church, Hegg’s words, and the singing that filled the sanctuary, brought some relief to Lindsey Szabo, a 17-year-old student at Saugus High School.

Lindsey has been running late to school on Thursday and was at home when she started receiving calls from her friends alerting her to the shooting. The attack hit her hard, partly because she had shared an AP psychology class with the suspected shooter.

Thursday afternoon, she met up with friends who had been on campus to talk about what had happened. But being at the church, and seeing the support available, allowed her to take another step back.

“[It was] hearing that everyone is here for you and that there’s a higher power, and that there’s a larger meaning than what this is,” Lindsey said.

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Other students shared that feeling. Chatting with a group of friends after the vigil, Kira Hooper, 15, said that during the service’s moments of silence, she had thought about how grateful she was for getting through the shooting safely. After fleeing the school’s campus, she was picked up by friends driving through the neighborhood.

Next to her, Allie Enright, 16, said the vigil reunited many students with their classmates for the first time since the shooting.

“We didn’t get to see people until tonight, so it was good to see if everyone was OK,” she said.

Also attending were friends from other local schools. Ryan Verbeck, a 17-year-old student at West Ranch High School, said that after hearing about the shooting, he reached out to seven or eight friends at Saugus High. He called and texted them until they responded that they were OK.

While a girl cried quietly on a bench nearby, Ryan said the evening of prayer was what many had needed.

“Seeing people come together and grieve, it brings the community closer and shows how strong we are,” he said.


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