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'It's surreal still:' Church holds prayer vigil after Waukesha South High School shooting

Posted at 9:56 PM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-05 23:29:56-05

WAUKESHA — A Waukesha church held a prayer vigil Thursday to help the community cope after a student was shot by an officer at Waukesha South High School on Monday.

St. Mary Parish opened its doors Thursday night to over 100 people. There was a mix of families with Waukesha South connections, all there to find answers to the feeling of uneasiness they've had since Monday.

"This certain incident happened and it's surreal still," Rocio Vega-Beiza, a senior from Waukesha South said.

Vega-Beiza was at church with her family. She says a week ago, she didn't have this feeling of trepidation. But ever since Monday, she's struggled. She didn't hear any gunshots but when she was told the school was on lockdown, she feared her school was going to be the next school known around the country.

"Every time I think about it, I think what if something bad happened?" Vega-Beiza said. "What if this happened or that happened? It's constantly going in my mind over and over and over again."

Those feelings are mirrored by many in the community. As people walked through the doors of St. Mary Thursday Night, they were greeted by a handwritten banner that read, "To Our Friends at Waukesha South." It was signed by students at Catholic Memorial. None of them were in the school Monday, but many, like Junior Ella Erato, they have friends at the school and feared the worst.

"I was pretty nervous when I heard about everything that went on," Erato said.

It's something she felt she couldn't adequately share until she was at church.

"I think it as kind of chaos when everything was happening," Erato said. "It's nice to think about it in a peaceful setting."

"Praying about it and leaving it to God," Vega-Beiza said. "It does give me a little comfort. It gives me peace of mind."

"Where do you go at a time like this?" Fr. Patrick Heppe, pastor at St. Mary said. "You seek support and encouragement. Families hugging each other. Groups of kids getting together. Some of these people need to get together in context of church and to be supported by their faith and gives direction and meaning in life and that's really what it's all about."