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AZ memorial held after shooting

BY TRAVIS DUNN | TUCSON, Ariz. | November 6, 2002

"Our hearts are broken, our spirits are wounded, we have suffered an unbearable loss and we grieve our lost innocence."

—Judy Berg

A memorial service was held here Monday for the three nursing professors shot to death Oct. 28.

The professors-Robin Rogers, 50, Barbara Monroe, 45, and Cheryl McGaffic, 44-were fatally shot, alledgedly by Robert S. Flores, 41, a student at the College of Nursing and a Gulf War veteran. Flores, who was flunking out of his nursing course, committed suicide after the murders.

Nearly 2,000 students, faculty, family and community turned out for the Monday morning ceremony held in the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall.

"Our hearts are broken, our spirits are wounded, we have suffered an unbearable loss and we grieve our lost innocence," said Judy Berg, faculty chair of the college of nursing, who opened the service.

"One week ago today, our world was shattered," said Will Tilley, staff chaplain at University Medical Center. "Students and faculty ran for their lives. There was great fear and confusion and anxiety. God of comfort, we pray that during this suffering those feelings might be healed."

"Some major steps forward were made on Monday," Tilley said in a telephone interview. "The memorial service just really seemed to bring some healing" as well as "the opportunity for people to share and for other people to hear other people sharing."

Following the service, Tilley said about 1,800 people formed a long, solemn processional and slowly made their way to the University Health Center about a mile from Centennial Hall.

"Then they had kind of a cleansing ceremony back at the college of nursing prior to going back inside," Tilley said.

Rose petals were distributed and spread at random about the nursing building. Three doves were released as a culmination of the morning's services.

"The thing was just so well put together. It went a long way to helping the healing process," Tilley said.

Tilley said all three women were actively involved in their churches.

McGaffic was also a volunteer hospital chaplain, and she began serving in that position last May, serving from two to four hours a week. She also taught a class on death and dying and served on the AIDS Education Project at the college.

Rogers was an active member of the Faith Lutheran Church parish health and healing ministry.

It is unclear whether Flores had a grievance against the three professors because of their religious beliefs.

Witnesses at the scene of the shootings said Flores told McGaffic he was "going to give her a lesson in spirituality." Flores also reportedly asked Munroe if "she was ready to meet her maker," and, according to witnesses, Munroe said yes.

A memorial fund is being created for the three murdered nurses, said Lisa Fahey, executive director of development, Arizona Health Sciences Center.

Fahey said she does not yet know how the funds will be administered. The university will have to consult with families of the deceased, she said.

"People are providing whatever support they can," Fahey said.

Dr. Ken Marsh, director of counseling and psychology services of the campus health services, has been working with students who were present during the shooting.

There were about 45 students in the classrooms, but more than 300 students from the College of Nursing and the nearby College of Pharmacy were counseled the day of the killings.

Marsh and other counselors from the university as well as the Tucson community are conducting support groups for these students, and will eventually move on to individual sessions.

"In a situation like this we all just work together," Marsh said. "We were reaching out to as many students as we could."

"I've been in this business for thirty years," he said, "and I've never had to live through anything like this."

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