May 24, 2023 - Uvalde First Remembrance - with an invitation from a school counselor from Robb Elementary, Tri-State Canine Response Team returned to Uvalde, TX to mark the one year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting in May, 2022.
Tri-State deployed 2 crisis counselors, 1 handler, 1 team lead, and 4 dogs. We had the privilege of comforting and supporting a still grieving community, including first responders, teachers, fire companies, dispatch officers, Incident Command Center, OEM, EMS, and hospital staff. We were an integral part community led support events , including butterfly release, art projects, and the tolling of the church bells to mark each victim’s passing. We were part of community vigils and memorials, attended church services, and most importantly, supported students and their families, many of whom we had met the previous year.
Uniquely qualified to speak about losing a child is Jill Tribe, crisis counselor, who has tragically lost 3 children herself. She respectfully listens to the heart wrenching story of grandparents who wonder “… will we ever heal? It’s like an open wound because of the division in this community.”
On March 27, 2023, a mass shooting occurred at the Covenant School in the Green Hills section of Nashville. Three nine year old children and three adults were killed.
Upon invitation, Tri-State Canine Response Team deployed 2 crisis counselors , a team lead and 3 crisis response canines to Nashville, TN. Over the course of our multi- day visit, we supported Metro Police in multiple precincts ,who were the responding officers. We visited mental health workers, who were engaging directly with the effected families. Tri-State felt privileged to console families at 5 of the 6 funerals.
A distraught grandparent could not literally leave the cross memorial bearing her grandchild’s picture, saying “I can’t leave. It’s as if she’s still here.”
December 14, 2022 - Sandy Hook 10th Remembrance - With an introduction from Mary’s Fund, Tri-State Canine Response Team traveled to Newtown, CT to mark the 10th year remembrance of the worst school shooting in US history. Twenty students and 6 adults were killed that day In December 2012.
Tri-State deployed 5 therapy dogs and their handlers from Maryland, Delaware, & New Jersey .The teams visited the Newtown School Board Office, Sandy Hook, Head O’Meadow, and Middle Gate Elementary Schools, Reed & Newtown Middle Schools as well as Newtown High School. The teams supported solemn services at Trinity Episcopal Church and at St Rose of Lima Church. The teams also paid their respects at the recently finished permanent memorial where they placed red roses at the name of Mary Sherlach, the mother of Maura Schwartz -the founder of Mary’s Fund, our sponsor. Tri-State honors Mary Sheralch’s legacy and continues her work.
Listening quietly as the names of victims were called as now teenagers placed specially crafted ornaments on the tree: “It’s so sad that we have had 10 more Christmases than those we lost that horrible day. They should be here.”
Highland Park, Illinois
On July 4, 2022, a mass shooting occurred during an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Seven people were killed and 48 others were injured.
Upon request, Tri-State Canine Response Team deployed 4 crisis counselors, 1 team lead and 4 dogs to Highland Park. We supported first responders and the community as well those directly effected family members, by providing Psychological First Aid, thereby fostering individual and community residency. This was Tri-State’s third deployment in 2 short months, taxing our deployment fund.
“What should have been a normal American celebration of a cookout and parade with my family turned into a nightmare. I ran into my shoe store and hid from gun fire.”
On May 24, 2022, the second largest mass shooting at a school occurred at Robb Elementary, in Uvalde, TX, where 19 students and 2 teachers were killed and 17 others were injured.
Under orders, Tri-State Canine Response Team deployed 3 handlers, 3 crisis response dogs, 1 interpreter, and 2 crisis counselors. Teams worked with families effected by shooting, and did in-home visits with students afraid to come out of their homes, as well as with first responder s who tragically had contact with the scene and with survivors.
Families with questions: How did this happen? Why weren’t children saved? How do we live after today?
Buffalo, New York
On May 14, 2022, a mass shooting occurred in a terrorist attack in Buffalo, NY at a Topps Friendly Markets supermarket in the East Side neighborhood. Ten people, all of whom were Black, were killed and three others were injured. Upon request, Tri-State Canine Response Team deployed 5 crisis counselors, 1 team lead & 5 crisis response dogs to Buffalo. The teams provided much needed debriefing and support inside of the Tops Market for the employees and the management. The teams also interacted with the community providing comfort and support.
This neighborhood had waited a long time for this store’s opening & it was a linchpin in this community’s resurgence. The residents were concerned this horrific event would somehow prevent the return of this community hub.
On April 15, 2021, a mass shooting occurred at a FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. Eight people were killed and seven others were injured, including four by gunfire. The gunman took his own life. Upon request, Tri-State Canine Response Team deployed three Crisis Response Teams to provide comfort and support as well as Crisis Counseling and Psychological First Aid to first responders and the community.
A Sikh survivor came to light his candle from Janice's. Then, he quietly knelt down to pet CeCe, receiving some calm reassurance and comfort. After that interaction, it was as if Janice and CeCe's presence literally kept the man in an upright position throughout the speech. The grim reality that his community would never be the same was sinking into his bones.
On March 22, 2021, a mass shooting occurred at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Ten people were killed, including a local on-duty police officer. The 21-year-old alleged shooter was arrested after being shot in the right leg.
Upon request, Tri-State Canine Response Team deployed three Crisis Response Teams and 2 additional Crisis Counselors to help the community. Over the course of 3 days, they worked with the community and First Responders by providing support and Psychological First Aid which helped with individual and community resiliency.
While the rest of the teams of dogs and handlers headed in one direction towards the Dispatch Office, Cece insisted on going down a seemingly empty hallway, sensing there was someone who needed her help. Inside the office was a lone man. Cece immediately went into comfort mode. As the man reached to pet Cece, he said “I took the 911 call.” Until he touched Cece, he had resisted sharing his emotions with anyone.
El Paso, Texas
On August 3, 2019, a mass shooting occurred at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. A gunman shot and killed 23 people and injured 23 others. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime. The shooting was described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history. The perpetrator was arrested shortly after the shooting and charged with capital murder.
Upon request, Tri-State deployed 4 crisis response teams and 1 additional Crisis Counselor. While with the community, our teams provided Psychological First Aid services to various first responder groups (dispatchers, law enforcement, medical personnel) who responded on the day of the shooting. We were embraced by the community and provided additional support services during a mass at Sacred Heart Church.
"Safest Texas City" read the sign at the airport. Clearly, that was no longer true. A woman approached us at the memorial and asked, "Why did he come here and do this to us? This town will never be the same. Everything was robbed from us."
State College, Pennsylvania
On January 24, 2019, a gunman killed 3 victims in a local bar and grill and then killed himself in State College, Pennsylvania. Upon request, Tri-State deployed 5 crisis response teams and 2 additional crisis counselors within 48 hours of the shooting. The teams provided psychological debriefing and support. The goal of psychological debriefing is to prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other negative sequelae. The teams initially worked directly with those affected by the tragedy and then connected them to local mental health service providers. Our crisis response dogs created a sense of calm and helped diffuse the high state of emotional distress that they were experiencing.
The suddenness of the shooting paralyzed people for a second. One young witness said, “I left Puerto Rico to come to Happy Valley, because I believed I could be safe here. Except the violence followed me here.” He accepted and seemed comforted by Kerri’s kisses.
Thousand Oaks, California
On November 7, 2018, a mass shooting occurred in Thousand Oaks, California, the Borderline Bar and Grill, a country-western bar frequented by college students. Thirteen people were killed, including the perpetrator, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and a sheriff’s officer who was shot multiple times. Sixteen additional people were injured. Upon request, Tri-State deployed 4 crisis response teams and 2 additional crisis counselors. The teams initially worked with those affected by the shooting including relatives and friends of the victims as well as the college students at a nearby university. Our dogs gave a momentary psychological break to the officers who had lost one of their own.
This deployment turned into a double deployment because wildfires were raging all around Thousand Oaks and Tri-State was also requested to provide services to firefighters who were coming in off the line. As a result of the fires, many families were displaced from their homes and were housed in shelters and Red Cross facilities. While visiting, the teams actively listened as people shared their individual stories while they received calm and comfort from our dogs.
As the crowds were leaving, the dogs froze when they heard a wail from a young man, who lay on the street in front of his friend’s memorial cross. At first, unsure of their next move, one by one, the dogs surrounded this grieving young man in a circle of canine support.
Paramus, New Jersey
In May 17, 2018, a 51-year-old teacher and a ten-year-old student at East Brook Middle School, were killed and dozens of students were injured when a dump truck slammed into their school bus on Interstate 80 while traveling on a field trip. The driver was charged with vehicular homicide.
This deployment was in many of our teams’ home state, New Jersey. Tri-State sent 10 crisis response teams and 4 additional crisis counselors. Over the course of 4 weeks, Tri-State visited the school on a weekly basis and helped with the recovery. The dogs were instrumental in getting the students to return to the classroom of the deceased teacher and helped raise the spirits of this broken community. Our teams worked side by side with Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT-NJ), school counselors and other school personnel as well as other mental health agencies.
We were honored to be asked to join them for a day of service on the one-year anniversary of the accident. We were reunited with many of the students, staff, and other first responders that we had helped the previous year. The children were thrilled to be reunited with the dogs that, “comforted them”.
After a horrific fatal bus accident, mental health resources flooded the elementary school; however, most of the children were reluctant to speak about the tragedy, until Tri-State entered the school. Over the course of a month, Tri-State’s dogs were able to unlock the flood gates because, as a child said, “Dogs don’t ask questions?” After the loss of their teacher, students were reluctant to enter that teacher’s classroom, until the “Follow the Dog” game, where kids dressed as sea creatures and the dogs dressed as sharks, marched into the room.
On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. The suspect was arrested about an hour later.
Upon request, Tri-State deployed 6 crisis response teams and 1 crisis counselor. Our teams attended many of the funerals and vigils and provided an outlet for many people to share their stories as they were comforted by our dogs. The dogs always create a sense of calm which helps lower ones state of emotional distress. This helps the person to be receptive to the Psychological First Aid that our teams provide.
There were so many emotions swirling around the vigil in the park. The dogs wove their way through the crowd, helping to accelerate the grieving and the healing. These student survivors were galvanized by grief, but committed to making a difference. “We can’t let this happen again. We have to be the change.”
Sutherland Springs, Texas
On November 5, 2017, a gunman perpetrated a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 26 people, including an unborn child, were killed and 22 others were wounded. The gunman died by a self-inflicted gunshot. This was the deadliest shooting in an American place of worship in modern history
Upon request, Tri-State deployed 6 crisis response teams and 1 crisis counselor. This small church community appreciated the comfort and support that was provided by our teams. Our teams worked with individuals and the community and helped make sure that they had access to the social, physical, and emotional support needed to move forward.
A long time parishioner and witness to the massacre met us outside the church. Obviously still shaken by the experience, she recounted, “I saw that mother trying to protect her unborn baby and her three other children. It was just awful. None of them made it. This church is like a family, and as a family, we will grieve.” She said that their shared faith would pull her through the dark days ahead.
Las Vegas, Nevada
On the evening of October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire upon the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. He fired more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his 32nd-floor suites in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which killed 60 people and wounded 411, with the ensuing panic bringing the injury total to 867. The gunman died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This was the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in United States history.
Upon request, Tri-State deployed 6 crisis response teams. As one can imagine due to the magnitude of this event, during this deployment, the teams provided comfort and Psychological First Aid to many people. People arrived from all parts of this country and beyond to mourn for and collect the remains of their loved ones. Our dogs paid an integral role in helping with the resiliency of this community. From a man who mourned the loss of his close friend to a coroner who had the job of keeping the identities straight of the many victims, our teams worked tirelessly. Our teams helped people connect with information, services, and social supports, while actively listening to those who cried while they petted and cuddled our empathic dogs.
She sat slumped in the Memorial Garden near the wall displaying the victims’ pictures, withdrawn and clearly grieving, hugging her husband’s cremains. When Cece approached, she said, “ I would like to write a goodbye note on my husband’s picture, but I just can’t walk over there. It’s just too hard.” Cece leaned into the woman who hugged the dog’s ruff. Together, the grieving wife and Cece eventually made the difficult walk to the wall, allowing this wife to write her painful goodbyes on her husband’s picture.
On June 12, 2016 a 29-year-old man, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Orlando Police Officers shot and killed the gunman after a three-hour standoff.
This was Tri-State Canine Response Team’s first national deployment. Tri-State was originally started as a group of trained, crisis response dog/handler teams that would provide local services and respond to incidents in our local “Tri-State” area (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.) Because of the magnitude of this shooting, Tri-State deployed 6 crisis response teams. The teams worked with the community, survivors, first responders, family members, and friends and offered compassion, Psychological First Aid and comfort guided by our comforting canines.
He reached out and texted his partner, "I'm in the club they shooting." Fearing the worst, he continued, "I'm going to die." Seeking shelter, while hiding in the bathroom, he texted, "He's in the bathroom with us." Then he texted, "He's coming." His final text read, "He's Terror."