Lowellville school shooting: Students begin healing process

Correspondent photo / Sean Barron..... Emily Wilaj, right, and Haley Cutter, both Lowellville High School seniors, embrace after Friday evening’s Prayer Service for Healing gathering at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Lowellville. The girls were among those who were in the school when a student shot himself Thursday.

LOWELLVILLE — Samantha Moore wants others to realize that when a student is in crisis, exercising the courage to step up and say something kind or complimentary to that person can be a huge game changer by possibly preventing a tragedy.

“I went to the school, and the amount of people willing to help was amazing,” Moore, a Lowellville High School senior, observed.

She also was among the estimated 100 students and others who attended Friday evening’s Prayer Service for Healing gathering at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, 131 E. Wood St., mainly to seek comfort from the trauma associated with an incident in which a student shot himself in the head around 10:17 a.m. Thursday in the cafeteria.

Another student said the victim fired at the floor before turning the gun on himself with a single shot to his head. No one else was injured.

After the shooting, numerous counselors were at the school to provide assistance to those affected by the shooting.

Moore said after the 20-minute church service that the victim also was in the school band. He played the trombone, she added.

Neither Moore nor fellow seniors Emily Wilaj and Haley Cutter detected anything amiss about the victim’s demeanor or actions. Instead, his behavior appeared normal, such as when he simply talked to one of his teachers about his grades shortly before the shooting, Moore recalled.

“He was surrounded by good people and was a good kid,” Wilaj added.

Even though she had no interactions with the victim, Cutter said she was traumatized by the suddenness of the shooting and added she knows people who were good friends with the victim.

Cutter also said it’s vital that support continues to be provided and that others come together for the community’s sake.

“I talked to my mom immediately after she picked me up. She was a huge support,” Wilaj said.

“He always seemed so happy, and it was so sudden. It seemed to come out of nowhere,” Evan Alfano, a Lowellville junior, remembered.

Alfano, who spoke with someone about his feelings related to the incident, advised others to talk to a trusted person if they’re experiencing trauma. It doesn’t matter who; the important thing is to refrain from keeping such feelings bottled up, he observed.

Alfano said that Thursday’s shooting also brought into sharp focus the importance of certain aspects of everyday life that otherwise are easy to take for granted.

“Hanging out with your friends means so much more when something like this happens,” he added.

Patricia Lucente, a communion minister at the church and a longtime caregiver, said it’s not enough for people merely to come together after such a tragedy, but to stay together for one another in the long term. It’s also critical for especially boys to know it’s OK to risk being vulnerable by sharing their true feelings, she added.

“Please don’t be afraid to get help. Whether it’s a succession of depression or sadness, talk to somebody,” because holding such strong feelings in is akin to “poisoning your system,” Lucente explained.

Conducting the service was the Rev. Stephen Zeigler, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church’s pastor, who read from Isaiah 41:5-10, which in essence talks about the power of neighbors helping one another in times of trouble and peril, as well as how God will strengthen and uphold them.

Zeigler also prayed for those affected by Thursday’s tragedy and stressed the importance of seeking God’s love, strength and courage.

He added that the church will remain open to those who need solitude and a place to reflect.



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