More than a dozen students and families met with grief counseling professionals at The Center on Thursday evening, following a shooting at Saugus High School during the morning hours that left two students dead.
By 5 p.m., just more than eight hours after the start of the incident, survivors of the shooting met with officials from multiple agencies including the city of Santa Clarita, William S. Hart Union High School District and Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health.
“Our city is here for all who have been affected,” said Mayor Marsha McLean. “(Grief counseling) is much-needed, and we have a lot of people here already — there are small circles with kids and professionals.”
Wrapped in blankets offered by service providers, students and their families embraced each other as they headed out of the building, including the Hernandez family.
“It was very scary,” said student Jacob Hernandez, 16. “I heard the first shot, looked to my left and I saw (the suspect) shoot again, so I ran. Coming here helped me clear my mind a bit, and I was told a few things I could do to calm down.”
His father, Fausto, recommended that affected families “need to bring their kids so that they can talk to somebody and so that they don’t keep it to themselves, because that’s what hurts kids.”
A school security aide, who was told not to go to work Thursday and who wished not to be named, said he felt it was important to be at The Center “because if a kid sees me and needs a pat on the back, I’m here in support, and that I think they did a fantastic job in staying mostly calm.”
Additional grief counseling is scheduled at Grace Baptist Church, located at 22833 Copper Hill Drive, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.
“This is a time when people really need to be able to share their grief and come together as a community,” said Paul Leitzell, pastor of administration and elder at Grace Baptist.
Those affected seeking mental health support can call the county’s Mental Health Department at 800-854-7771.