The City of Beech Grove held a community gathering Sunday evening on the steps of City Hall in honor of the FedEx employees who lost their lives in last week’s tragic mass-shooting.
Stuart, our therapy dog, and I arrived a bit early and saw several local television cameras being set up for telecasts later Sunday. Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley greeted several people who also had gathered early.
Bill Chandler, a good friend of mine, approached and he informed me that one of the eight victims was a Beech Grove resident. I was among those in attendance who had no idea of a local connection with the tragedy that happened at the far-westside FedEx facility.
Chandler explained to me that he, his wife Cheryl, and their family were friends with 19-year-old Samaria Blackwell, her parents and her older siblings. He told of how their families came to know each other and pointed out some common friends and family members.
Samaria was home-schooled by her mother Tammi. She was a student-athlete who played basketball and soccer. She played for the Indianapolis Homeschool Wildcats and Indy Genesis. She had been working at FedEx for only a few months.
Samaria had planned on becoming a police officer. Several Beech Grove police officers were in attendance.
Mayor Buckley spoke to the crowd briefly and told of his long-time connection with Samaria and her family. He told us that Samaria’s mother was a babysitter for his kids many years ago. Those who spoke pulled the crowd together in the aftermath of the tragic shootings.
The observance honored all eight of the victims with additional thoughts and prayers for those who were injured in the shootings.
In addition to Samaria Blackwell, seven more indiviuals lost their lives in the shooting last week: Matthew Alexander, 32; Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; and John (Steve) Weisert, 74.
Those who spoke, including Rev. Dan Bailey and Sikh member Gaganpal Singh Dhaliwal, emphasized healing and unity. Four of the shooting victims were Sikh. Prayers helped the healing.
Buckley recognized that of all the recent mass shootings in the nation that this one, although on the far westside, was too close to home because a local girl was among the victims.
The mayor also pointed out that several residents in Beech Grove work for FedEx which has several locations in central Indiana.
FedEx officials were unsure when the facility where the shooting occured would re-open.
As the observance began, a small rain shower began. The rain varied during the emotional gathering. I’m sure that many of the folks there, including myself, thought of it as tears from heaven.
Stuart also noticed those in attendance along with the pets that were there. The calm and quiet that special dogs can provide their owners is invaluable, especially in times of grief.
Stuart and I were humbled to be part of the crowd that attended the observance last Sunday at City Hall as Beech Grove honored the eight victims of this senseless tragedy.