A local pastor who helped with counseling of people in the fatal collision Thursday morning said the pain in the community is intense.
The Rev. Ronny Brannen, senior pastor at Thomson First United Methodist Church, said he and the church’s youth pastor Jeff Skinner spent a good part of the morning and afternoon of Sept. 26 at Thomson High School and Thomson-McDuffie Middle Schools and made themselves available at the request of the McDuffie County School System.
In a press release, the school system said that it had activated its crisis management system of providing counseling assistance to students, faculty, and staff.
“Please keep the family and our schools in your thoughts and prayers as we go through this most difficult and trying time,” the release said.
“We got in touch with them about where we needed to be and where we could help,” said Brannen Thursday afternoon. “I went to the high school and Jeff went to the middle school.”
The two from the church were among several who responded in the crisis.
The pastor said the schools were trying to take care of the kids.
“There were rooms for them to go to, and we were in the rooms to help support them and help them cry through and talk through,” Brannen noted. “I took it on myself, like I always do, to look at the staff as well. Nobody knows what they go through at times. I talked to the superintendent and different ones.”
Brannen said he stepped into the local hospital’s ER department to check and counsel them if needed.
“I spoke to the police chief and first responders to see if they, too, were okay,” said Brannen.
He said his words to them were uplifting and consoling.
“I told them I wish that I had magical words to make all of this go away, but there’s not,” he said. “We are together in this and we will get through this.”
One of the things Brannen said he loved about the community that it is close knit.
“When you are a close-knit community like this and the tragedy hits like this, it hits so many so fast,” he said. “Basically I told them how sorry I was and that we were there for them.”
The pastor said other pastors would be available for the youth and adults.
“While Jeff was at the middle school, he found out that kids at Briarwood Academy were upset and he left to go there,” Brannen said. “Then, some parents of some of the kids have contacted him, so we are trying to help in a number of areas.”
Brannen said this tragedy, coupled with another in July that claimed the life of a mother and her 13-year-old daughter were a lot for a town to handle.
“To have this, now, is too many, too fast,” he said. “It’s just so much.”