By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (June 14, 2016) — Covenant hospital chaplain Jim DeGrado is coordinating the work of all chaplains responding to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub and has been ministering to victims’ families and first responders.
DeGrado serves at Nemours Children’s Hospital and supervises trainees there as well as others at Orlando Regional Medical Center, which is located near the nightclub. One of his trainees was the first chaplain at the scene of the shooting, where the gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53. According to a hospital press release, 44 of the victims were brought to that center.
Chaplains at the hospitals and with law-enforcement agencies have strong working relationships, which has helped to coordinate the work at various locations as well as at the scene, DeGrado said.
The nearby Hampton Inn was set up as the first command center where people could go to learn whether family members had made it out of the club or were among the victims. DeGrado met with some of the families.
“It was a lot of people together in a cramped space waiting for answers they couldn’t get,” DeGrado said. “There isn’t much you can do but sit and listen to them and be with them in their pain.”
He also went to the scene and ministered to some of the first responders there, many of whom were struggling with emotions as they did their jobs amid the carnage.
“There are a lot of officers who are LGBT, and they all had felt the bars were safe places to be,” DeGrado said.
DeGrado has been working with other chaplains, ministers, and health officials to set up grief counseling centers that will be available to the public.