How does a community heal after this tragedy?

Published: Apr. 20, 2018 at 7:07 PM EDT
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In a split second, two deputies lives were taken.

"Initially there's so much shock it's hard to digest," said Dr. Meggen Sixbey, associate director for Crisis and Emergency Resources at the University of Florida.

In the next 24 hours, the community was left with many questions. Now crisis counselors at UF say only time can heal Gilchrist County.

"That first week to six weeks, the full extent of the tragedy often hasn't sunk in because people are really pulling together at that time," Dr. Sixbey said.

The whole region has come together, schools and cities in and around the county organizing to wear blue in honor of the fallen deputies. Once the days and weeks start to pass, we wanted to know what it will take for the community to recover.

"What they need today may be something very different then what they need tomorrow," Dr. Sixbey said. "Maybe today they just need to cry and not talk to anybody and hold themselves up at home. Tomorrow they need people to come over and be with them and support them and be angry with them."

Only four years ago this small town was rocked by another major tragedy when a man killed his daughter and six grandchildren in the nearby town of Bell before killing himself. Counselors say when a community has experienced previous tragedies, it can make a new one feel even worse.

"Is an officer or a friend or a neighbor who knew about these things is that one plus one equalling 100 for them or is one plus one equalling 2 for them," Dr. Sixbey said, explaining that sometimes the memory of previous tragedies can either prepare you or push you over the edge.

Dr. Sixbey said the support from other law enforcement agencies around the state could help the kick-start that healing process.

"I think I would imagine that goes a long way and so hopefully that is transitioning from that law enforcement agency as well to the community," Dr. Sixbey said.

Until then, it's the time we take to reflect together that will help us all heal.

"That time period for Trenton in the next week to six weeks, can they build those connections with one another, so that that will help them get through this next phase," Dr. Sixbey said. "Because that next phase is a little bit harder than that first phase."

The city of Newberry has made a Facebook event for a vigil Thursday night to honor the deputies killed in Trenton. Those who would like to participate are asked to bring candles, but some will be provided. Mayor Marlowe has confirmed to TV20 that Congressman Ted Yoho will preside over the candlelight vigil.

The vigil will be held at Country Way Town Square in Newberry at 8:00 p.m. The Florida Crisis Response Team will also be offering emotional and psychological support to members of the community.

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