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Counselors prepare in wake of shootings

BY GEORGE PIPER | Honolulu, HI | November 3, 1999

Seven people died Tuesday morning when Byran Uesugi, 40, allegedly walked into a Xerox Corp. facility in Honolulu and

shot at co-workers. He surrendered to police later in the afternoon.

The brutal killings shocked the island state where miles of ocean provide a natural and psychological barrier to tragedies

more common on the mainland. The closed-knit nature of Hawaii likely means the seven deaths will touch off feelings of loss

through Honolulu and the island of Oahu.

"When it happens here we are shocked that something can happen in our beautiful Hawaii," said the Rev. Barbara Grace

Ripple, district superintendent for the United Methodist Church in Hawaii. "We need to reach out with more of the aloha

spirit and embrace and love one another and realize that while tragedies do happen, the love of God surrounds each and

every one of us."

Counselors tending to survivors and victims' families likely will employ critical incident stress debriefings that allow people to

talk about what they saw or what they are feeling, said the Rev. Phyllis Roe, executive director of the Samaritan Counseling

Center of Hawaii.

"People sometimes just go into shock when they witness something so shocking and so horrifying," she said. "The tendency is

to not think or talk about it, but it's very important to talk about it."

The center, one of 112 SCC facilities in the United States and Japan, is an interfaith, community-based counseling center

striving to offer quality counseling and psychotherapy in faith-based context that is affordable to everyone. Although officials

hadn't sought the center's services through Tuesday afternoon, Roe said SCC would be available to Xerox workers and their

families.

Victims' families likely will have an extended grief process, Roe said, given the sudden, unexpected nature of the tragedy. The

question of why this happened can only be answered for the survivors over a long period of time, during which they'll run

the gamut of emotions from shock, anger and disbelief to horror, sadness and possibly rage.

Motives for the shooting are still unclear. Hawaii economy is undergoing a severe recession, and Roe said economic factors

could contribute to a person reaching the breaking point.

"If someone thinks they'll lose their job, and if they're in debt or not confident they can find another job, they can feel pretty

desperate," she said, adding that she has no knowledge of the alleged shooter's background or situation.

With survivors and the general public probably looking to their pastors for comfort, Roe encourages ministers to listen to

their stories. Statements of faith also can be encouraging in these tough times. "We don't know why this happened -- but

God's presence is still felt."

Xerox workers are not the only ones touched by the tragedy. Downtown offices locked doors out of fear, and some of Roe's

clients did not want to leave their homes or workplaces to attend sessions. Despite Honolulu's metropolitan size, it and the

rest of Oahu resembles a small community, he said. The real impact of the tragedy may come when victims' names are

released and residents realize they've lost friends, neighbors or extended relatives.

The hope, though, is that some good can arise from this tragedy.

Hawaii's faith community should encourage dialogue and engage people no matter what their concerns may be, said the Rt.

Rev. Richard Chang, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii. Churches can provide the place for this recovery and help

bridge gaps to meet the area's needs.

"When we have respectful conversation, we not only listen with our ears, but with our hearts. Their hurts often are our hurts,

too," Chang said.

Tuesday's shootings also might raise awareness of peoples' needs before something else tragic occurs, Roe said. Oftentimes,

hindsight provides the keys to how someone fell through the cracks and makes other cognizant of comments or remarks

they might otherwise brush off. People close to tragedies also often reassess their lives for the better and realize that life is a

gift, she added.

School shootings in Colorado and Georgia and workplace shootings in Alabama and Georgia sparked a renewed gun control

debate. Strict gun control laws in Hawaii appear to stem the tide of crime with firearms. Of 24 statewide murders in 1998,

only six were committed with a gun, while just under 12 percent of the state's 1,200 robberies involved a gun.

A strong gun control advocate, Ripple noted that denying guns to people isn't a cure for violence. If people are angry

enough, they'll use a gun, stick or bare hands to vent their rage. She expressed concerned for a world that exposes young

children to fierce scenes via video games and movies. "We have to examine the values that we have for our society and for

our lives," she said. "If we advocate violence, we advocate violent behavior."


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