Chapel Hill Academy teacher Lana Runnels, 45, was hit hard by the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde on May 24. She was inside the Wedgewood Baptist Church when a shooter opened fire on Sept. 15, 1999.

“I feel exhausted. I feel exhausted. I’m a teacher, I have children and I’m a survivor of a shooting,” Runnels said at Lena Pope’s “Be the Light” gathering on June 2. “I feel exhausted that 20 plus years later, we are still dealing with some of the same things.”

Runnels teaches second grade, and the Uvalde shooting happened a day before Chapel Hill’s last day of classes. She did not speak to her students about the shooting, but Chapel Hill Academy’s gifted and talented teacher Melanie Kinsbury, 53, did.

“The day of the shooting was our eighth-grade graduation, and so at graduation that night, we took a moment of silence,” Kingsbury said. “We had one more day with the students. So, we talked about it a little bit, mostly, I let the children voice their concerns. And we talked about how we need to work towards things being a safer place.”

Kingsbury and her wife, Kimberly Kingsbury, 57, hoped to share their feelings June 2 at the Marty Leonard Community Chapel, 3131 Sanguinet St. — they got exactly what they expected, they agreed.

“This is my community, and I think one of the reasons that I came was to be with my community in a setting where we were free to talk,”Melanie Kingsbury said. “When we’re around the children, we need to be strong, and we need to be careful about what we say. We weren’t problem-solving or trying to come up with a solution.”

Child and family services organization Lena Pope hosted the gathering in hopes of “time for community and comfort,” Ashley Elgin, the CEO of Lena Pope, said.

“We just want people to have a space to feel heard. You can’t go to the movies or the hospital or to school or to get groceries. This is a time to reflect and speak our minds,” Elgin said.

Community members gathered at the chapel, read poems and honored the victims of the Robb Elementary shooting and the June 1 St. Francis Hospital shooting.  Psychiatrist Dr. Brian Dixon facilitated an open discussion

Some shared their sadness, while others expressed anger, confusion and some hope. Lena Pope workers were available for guests who needed additional counseling on June 2.

“I work with a lot of children, and I don’t have any biological children of my own so I get to play the dad role for the kids,” Dixon said. “I’m cautiously optimistic because we can grow from this.  Through this horrible thing, we can grow from this.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.