Locals Reveal Anguish, Fear at Lafayette Shooting Memorial Site

Church Memorial - H 2015
Lorena O'Neil

Church Memorial - H 2015

"We are Redboxing it from now on."

Friends, family and neighbors of Thursday night's shooting victims in Lafayette, Louisiana gathered at a memorial site Friday afternoon at a local church.

Our Lady of Fatima Church is located one mile away from the Grand Theatre where 59-year-old gunman John Russell Houser opened fire on the audience at a Trainwreck screening, killing two and injuring nine, before turning the gun on himself. The church had a flower and balloon display out front, along with notes and prayers written on a poster board by passers-by.

"Our hearts are broken for all the families most affected by this sad tragedy. We will continue to pray hard for our community," one message read.

Volunteers from the church passed out iced water bottles in the 97-degree heat as people came and left messages and flowers.

"We watch the news and we still can't believe they are talking about Lafayette," one woman said. "My grandkids go to the movies all of the time."

"Mine too," another added. "But we are Redboxing it from now on."

Photo Credit: Lorena O'Neil

"My concern this morning was our parents at our school, which is starting in three weeks," said Father Michael Russo, the church's pastor. "When the parents hear 'Johnston Street Murder,' it sparks the imagination." Johnston Street is the street shared by both the church and the Grand Theatre, where Thursday's shooting took place. "It's important to send a reassuring message to our parents that the safety of their children is important to us."

Russo said two of the victims, Bo and Gerri Ramsay, who attend the church, "were in good spirits." Russo said he visited them in the hospital Friday morning. According to Russo, Gerri was shot in the hand and Bo was shot multiple times in the stomach.

"I know that the town is hurting," Russo said.

Joni Duos, the principal of the Catholic school attached to the church, explained how the memorial site ended up at the church and not at the theater itself. "We are a few blocks away from the Grand Theatre where the shooting took place," she said. "Many people wanted to leave flowers and things, but because the investigation is still going on police asked that people not leave gifts at the theater." 

In lieu of a memorial site at the theater, Duos said a churchgoer asked Father Russo if he would mind allowing locals to stop by the church instead. After Russo agreed, the pastor asked the police to announce the memorial location at the press conference Friday morning.

Photo Credit: Lorena O'Neil

"We want people to leave flowers, messages, anything that gives them a sense of peace," said Duos. "This was a way of serving our community."

According to Duos, some people have given monetary donations for the families of the victims. She did not disclose the amount.

A candlelight vigil will take place this weekend. A therapist is expected to council parents on how to communicate the tragedy to their children.

"It's a very scary thing," one passerby said. "You don't think in Lafayette, Louisiana this could happen."

Photo Credit: Lorena O'Neil