Renton Patch sat down with two of the three chaplains who responded on . This is their story in how they helped not just the Scholl family, but the first responders, Lindbergh students and the community grieve following the days afterward:
Renton Fire and Emergency Services Chaplain Allan Folmar held Stephanie Scholl’s hand as the two walked past hundreds of lit candles toward a horrific scene where Stephanie lost her daughter Jessica just days before. Folmar remained silent during their short walk . Silence is a trademark of the Chaplain's work.
“A presence of peace, is what we bring,” Folmar said of his profession.
In the weeks following the , Chaplains Folmar, Al Patterson and Lorretta Green talked with and listened to dozens of people, both family and friends, students, community and first responders about the day and beyond, as they all tried to grieve.
The Chaplains worked the crowd during the candlelight vigil like “pick pocketers” might work a crowded subway. They surveyed the crowd for people who were having a hard time, but might not know how to come to grips with the murder.
Folmar and Patterson both agreed this trauma was different. Students didn’t just hear about the tragedy, they either walked by the house as it was on fire, heard the police and fire sirens from campus, or saw first responders performing CPR.
“There is no quick fix in the grieving process,” said Patterson who chaplains for several area fire and police agencies including Tukwila, Skyway, North Highline and Renton.
“People move on very slowly. Many times, for Jessica’s closest friends, the loss of one of their buddies will be a traumatic part of their life. They will have flash backs, remembrances of the memorial service and what they said and wrote,” said Patterson. “They may even name their first child after Jessica to honor her spirit.”
Over a month since Jessica's tragic murder, the chaplains agree that some may never get over what happened.
“They may be angry or depressed and those are the ones that need additional help,” Patterson said.
The job of a Police/Fire Chaplain is short term.
“I have come into to many scenes, the people look up and see the chaplain is here and they can take a breath of air,” Folmar said. “It’s nothing I have said, it’s presence of peace. There is no halo.” We have to unhook fairly quickly, so we don’t end up victims ourselves. .
One common misconception of police and fire Chaplains is they don’t come preaching their religion.
“We are there to give comfort, peace, encouragement and explanation,” said Patterson.
Folmar tells those who ask what his denomination is at the scene, but is quick to reply, “What one do you want me to do. I can be Catholic, Jewish, Christian.”
But once the memorial is over and the friends stop coming by with food and comfort, those left behind must establish a new normal.
“Yes we will move on, but some will move on easier without too much baggage and some have baggage,” said Folmar, “and that’s the new normal.”
This is when the longterm care begins.
Another job for the chaplains is to make sure police and fire responders are cared for after an event. Folmar says several members are traumatized by Jessica’s death. Folmar said this can go on for days, weeks or months.
Renton first responders received what is called a “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing” (CISD) by the Bellevue Police Department Chaplain Mike Ryan. CISD is a process that prevents or limits the development of post-traumatic stress in responders exposed to critical incidents. Professionally conducted debriefings help people cope with, and recover from an incident's after effects.
. The more detail information people have as the court process begins for Jessica’s murder, the more mental pictures they get to build. And they think they want to know the details, but they really don’t, the Chaplains said.
Lane first appeared in court on arraignment of first-degree murder and arson charges on . A trial date has not yet been set, according to Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office. Lane's next appearance will be a case setting hearing, which is scheduled for August 13 at the King County Courthouse.
For those who continue to suffer from this event, or any other traumatic event, there are grief counselors and programs in the Renton community, including the Crisis Clinic. As a non-profit organization, the clinic offers an array of support services available to everyone in King County. Their telephone services (866-4-CRISIS) provide immediate, confidential assistance for people in emotional distress and in need of help.