As news of the fatal shooting in Fallon, Nevada reached the world, students expressed their condolences, and how best to move forward by embracing the plan of happiness through putting trust in Heavenly Father and becoming prepared for possible future dangers in a changing world.
John Kelly O’Connor, 48, came to the LDS chapel on July 22 with the intention to commit targeted homicide. In Fallon, Nevada, after the sacrament had finished being administered to the congregation and the first speaker began his talk, O’Connor came from the foyer, where he sat waiting, and shot 61-year-old Bert Miller, a longtime Fallon volunteer firefighter, multiple times point blank. Miller was considered by friends and family to be a well-known and kind man. Another bullet also struck and injured Miller’s brother, Duane Miller, who was seated next to him. Chaos erupted as people ran and dove to the ground. O’Connor left the chapel immediately after the shooting and was later arrested by police.
“I thought it was a terrible thing that no one should ever have to experience or be part of,” said Shane Laird, a junior from Utah studying biomedicine. “I am incredibly sorry they had to witness such a heinous crime. Grieve for the dead, but do not let this destroy your own life. Do not let this murderer take more than one life. Keep moving forward in your life and don't let this hold you back.”
Trust in Heavenly Father and a knowledge of the plan of happiness can help witnesses move forward, according to Amanda Abraham, a sophomore from Illinois studying hospitality and tourism management. “Heavenly Father will help you through this confusing and heartbreaking trial. If you don’t trust in Heavenly Father, it could lead to more grief because you aren’t remembering the plan of happiness that He has given us. It’s called the plan of happiness for a reason. We have more comfort in knowing where our loved ones go. We know they are in a better place and we’ll see them again.”
Having looked into more information about O’Connor, Laird shared, “The shooter was known to the local police. According to the Reno Gazette Report, the shooter was arrested twice for domestic violence and once for drugs, but the charges were dropped for unknown reasons. If you are convinced of a violent crime such as domestic violence, you are not allowed to have a firearm. Bert Miller's murder was premeditated. The shooter waited outside the sacrament hall in the foyer for about half an hour before shooting Bert. The motive is still unknown, but it does seem like it was a targeted murder.”
Feeling disgruntled and bothered by the news, Hans Eduardo Nieto Menoscal, a sophomore from Ecuador studying business management, commented there is no way anyone can anticipate these types of events in the church, nor in any other place in the world. He said learning how to be prepared in active-shooter situations is the best thing we can do as members of the church.
“These kind of events are becoming quite common in our increasingly complicated and insecure world in which we live. Members of the church should be prepared in knowing what to do in this event to increase survival in these regrettable events.”
Sharing Nieto’s mindset, Laird agreed that preparation is important because “no matter where we are, at church, in school, at home or in the workplace, disaster can strike at any moment. The best thing that can be learned is to be prepared mentally and physically. Get into a mindset that something like this can happen to you and what you will do if it does happen. Be prepared to run, hide and fight. Do your best to not become a helpless victim [and] fight back.”
Abraham shared she felt “sad knowing this happened in the church, especially inside a chapel. The chapel is a place of safety because it is where we know we can feel the Spirit and have a break from the worldly things for a short time.
“We can get that spiritual recharge and have a sense of comfort inside a church with our fellow LDS members. Our church buildings are known as a place of safety where we can peacefully worship, but that was disrupted in the Fallon Nevada shooting.”
Nieto commented, “The sacrament is the most important meeting of the church. The sacred nature of the sacrament is as deep as the atonement itself. It is very sad that a beautiful and sacred meeting was corrupted and stained with such a terrible incident. Members are supposed to be looking for peace and a sense of renewal during this meeting, but it was filled with pain and sorrow instead.
“To the members in general, especially to the victims and families of the victims, I extend my condolences. The tragedy of losing a loved one in such situations are far beyond my capacity to express and even to comprehend. My sympathy and my prayers are for them.”
Abraham counseled that we continue to do the “little things” such as attending church, reading the scriptures and praying to avoid temptation. These things will help us survive in a world where Satan is trying his hardest to work against us. “We can help others do that as well. We can try even harder to have good morals and be more Christlike. Realizing we can’t necessarily go out and change the world, we can start small in our communities. It’s the little things that count.”