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Pastors, community unite for prayer vigil following Heritage High School shooting in Newport News

Heritage High School vigil (September 21).jpg
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Posted at 12:37 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 12:40:25-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Tuesday night, pastors and the community came together to pray in unity after a traumatic school shooting incident at Heritage left two students injured.

A 15-year-old boy is in custody as the suspect.

The mother of a Huntington Middle School student shared with News 3 this video of students evacuating the school Monday morning. Her son shot the footage via his cellphone.

Heritage High School student video

For Heritage High alum and cheerleading coach Crystal Scott, this past Monday weighs heavily on her mind.

“This is my community,” Scott said. “It’s very tough when you’re trying to be strong for your girls and trying to be strong for your community.”

But Tuesday night, panic turned into prayer as community leaders, school staff, pastors and students supported each other while speaking their minds.

“I was in the cafeteria, chilling with my best friend,” Heritage High School student Sterling Bailey said during the vigil. “What is going on that a student has to bring a gun into the building to solve a situation that could’ve easily been solved?”

“It’s time for you to relinquish yourself from the church and come to me as a human,” Bailey added.

“Twenty-four hours is still a shock,” Dr. Tremayne Johnson, president of the Coalition of Concerned Clergy told News 3.

It’s a shock, Johnson said, that has sparked awareness for folks to come together.

“Not to overreact, but to really react in a way that is responsible that we can talk calmly about how we can move ahead,” he said.

Johnson added community meetings and support for children are vital when addressing not just Monday’s shooting, but this past summer's gun violence throughout the area.

“Folks thinking farther than picking up the gun. What other avenues can we come together and talk out anger? Talk out things that we may not agree with,” Johnson said. “We all have disagreements. We all come to the point where we may not agree with one another, but there is a way to handle it.”

As for Scott, she believes taking action is key.

“We have to get control of the violence, get control of the gangs, get control of everybody that’s trying to cause harm to someone,” she said. “Just to let them know that we’ve got your back. If y’all need help, we’re here for y’all.”

Dr. Johnson also told News 3 his group plans to continue talks with the Newport News Public Schools superintendent and other community leaders, as well as hold events to help young people throughout the area.

Organizers said they know that this could have a lifelong traumatic effect on students, parents, teachers and all school personnel. Heritage High School announced Tuesday morning that they have established a support hotline to assist students, parents and staff.