Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee addressed Tennesseans in a video Tuesday evening after a shooting at Covenant School in Nashville the day before left six people dead. Among the victims was 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, who was a close friend of his wife, Maria.
In the video, Gov. Lee, a Republican, described Monday’s shooting as “a tragedy beyond comprehension” and said he — like many others across the state — woke up Tuesday morning experiencing “emptiness, a lack of understanding, a desperate desire for answers, [and] a desperate need for hope.”
“Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends, Cindy,” he said, noting the couple had planned to host Peak for dinner the same day that she was shot and killed.
“Cindy was supposed to come over and have dinner with Maria last night after she filled in as a substitute teacher yesterday at Covenant,” Lee added. He said his wife, Cindy and Dr. Katherine Koonce, another victim who served as Head of School, were “all teachers at the same school and have been family friends for decades.”
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Lee recognized other Tennesseans woke up missing a friend, family member, teacher, spouse or a loved one.
“Like many of you, I have experienced tragedy in my own life and I have experienced the day after that tragedy. All of Tennessee was hurt yesterday, but some parents woke up without children,” he continued. “Children woke up without parents, without teachers. Spouses woke up without their loved ones.”
Lee also recalled the bravery of the Metro Nashville police officers who rushed in the school and stopped the shooter.
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He also urged the community to pray for all those involved and promised additional action.
“The struggle is against evil itself. We are called to love our enemies,” he said. “There is hope in the midst of tragedy. May we grieve in the days ahead, but not without hope.”
The governor’s remarks come as the community grapples with what Covenant School also called a “terrible tragedy.”
“Our community is heartbroken,” school administrators said in a statement Monday evening. “We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing.”
The statement continued: “Law enforcement is conducting its investigation, and while we understand there is a lot of interest and there will be a lot of discussion about and speculation surrounding what happened, we will continue to prioritize the well-being of our community.”
“We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received, and we are tremendously grateful to the first responders who acted quickly to protect our students, faculty and staff,” it added.
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The Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCPC), a sister church of Covenant Presbyterian Church — where Covenant School is held, similarly said the community is left with “unimaginable sorrow” and is mourning together.
PCPC also confirmed one of the three children killed in the shooting, 9-year-old Hallie Scruggs, was the only daughter of current Covenant Presbyterian Church Lead Pastor Chad Scruggs.
“We love the Scruggs family and mourn with them over their precious daughter Hallie. Together, we trust in the power of Christ to draw near and give us the comfort and hope we desperately need,” PCPC Senior Pastor Mark Davis said in a statement.
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The sister church held a prayer service Tuesday, March 28, for the community.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.