Repeat violence heightens fear

BY GEORGE PIPER | SEATTLE | November 4, 1999

SEATTLE (Nov. 4, 1999) -- Workplace violence claimed two lives on Wednesday in Seattle, only one day after a shockingly similar tragedy in Honolulu.

An unidentified man walked into a boat repair company facility and opened fire. Two people died and two others sustained injuries. Police were still searching for the man late Wednesday, heightening the concern in this Pacific Northwest metropolis.

The incident comes one day after a Xerox Corp. employee killed seven coworkers in Honolulu before eventually surrendering to police. Just as in Tuesday's shooting in Hawaii, faith-based officials struggled to make sense of the violence while offering advice to console those left fearful by this week's events.

"It's a shock. You don't think about things like that happening, and so soon after (Tuesday's shooting)," said Alice Woldt, associate director for the Church Council of Greater Seattle, adding that it seems violent copycat crimes seem to occur with increasing frequency.

CCGS has an emergency response effort aimed primarily at hate-based crimes motivated by race or religious issues, although Woldt said it's unclear what sparked this latest incident. The organization, which represents 450 Seattle-area churches, also provides services in areas such as housing, homelessness, abuse and other issues.

Neil Molenaar, a Church World Service Disaster Resource Facilitator based in Washington, also is contacting faith representatives near the shooting scene to gauge the faith community's response and role.

With a seemingly increasing number of violent incidents in recent years, people may be moving toward absolute fear or a fatalistic sense that these things happen and are not preventable, said the Rev. Terry Steig, executive director of Presbyterian Counseling Service, which provides ecumenical pastoral care and counseling services to Greater Seattle.

Events like the past two days' shootings can shatter a person's view that the places they live and work are safe, he said. For some, the impact can take a great emotional toll with long-lasting effects. The first step toward restoring the emotional well being is simply listening, Steig said.

"Listen to what people have to say and let them know that what they feel is okay and that they can share their fears," he said.

Focusing on relationships -- be it with family, friends, God or their faith community -- is important to give people a sense of safety and security, Steig said. It's also key, he adds, to recognize others' fears so you can help them relax and begin to live from the soul.

"When we live from our fears, we don't live with our whole selves," he said. "We should invite God to be with them and to live in love and peace and have the possibility of a whole life."

People who commit these heinous acts often are desperate and lack healthy people relationships, said Steig, adding that communities need to build a sense of connection so that people don't feel so alone. Church can play a role in this by communicating with their membership and their neighborhoods to promote safety and identity among people.

Such senseless tragedy is not new to Seattle. Last Thanksgiving, a Seattle bus driver was shot and the unmanned bus careered off a bridge, killing two. An armed gunman killed three people and held police at bay for several hours this past Memorial Day in Seattle.

"You never get immune to the shock and horror, but it's a community that has experienced this kind of violence with guns," Woldt said.

Attempts to stiffen gun laws have failed in recent years, something Woldt attributes to a strong local National Rifle Association lobbying effort and the general strong feeling in the American West about gun ownership.

Posted Nov. 4, 1999

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