MINNEAPOLIS, MN (August 3, 2017) – More than 700 people attended a prayer service Wednesday night following the explosion that ripped apart the Upper Campus of Minnehaha Academy earlier in the day. The explosion killed two people and injured several others.
The vigil was held at the school’s Lower Campus, about a mile and a half from the Upper Campus. The private school’s pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade classes meet at the Lower Campus. The high school is at the Upper Campus.
Minnehaha Academy is operated by the Northwest Conference of the ECC.
“We’re going to get through it,” President Donna Harris told the gathering. “We trust God. He is a mighty, mighty, mighty God.”
Harris also led the gathering in an impromptu singing of “Hallellujah.” The principal was injured in the blast and briefly hospitalized before being released.
Killed in the blast were longtime receptionist Ruth Berg and janitor John Carlson. After the service, attendees were offered Dilly Bars in honor of Carlson, who used to hand them out to students while encouraging them to work at their studies.
Sean Jensen, a member of Sanctuary Covenant Church and father of two children who attend the Lower Campus, attended the service and posted some of his thoughts on Facebook this morning. Below is a lightly edited version of his post:
“(I) attended the vigil last night at Minnehaha Academy to mourn two deaths, one person in critical condition and many others, on various levels, emotionally and mentally ravaged by this tragedy.
In times of grief, the devil often does his best handiwork. So I try to focus on blessings, and here are a few that ran through my mind last night when I had time to reflect 30 minutes beforehand:
– That first responders, by all accounts, were fast, brave and incredibly sensitive to the needs of people shocked and injured. They were carefully sifting through the debris to find Mr. Carlson, who was confirmed dead late Wednesday evening.
– That Dr. Donna Harris leads the school. I have marveled at her leadership for years, but she displayed how truly special she is yesterday. She was directly impacted by the explosion, injured and hospitalized. But she left the hospital on crutches as quickly as possible to be at the school to support her rattled staffers and answer questions for first responders.
– Surrounded by her loving family, Dr. Harris put her own fear and grief aside to focus on others. I sat a few feet away, as Dr. Harris courageously and powerfully spoke at the vigil and led a spontaneous singing of “Hallelujah” with her beautiful voice.
-That other staffers – such as Sara Jacobson, Jason Wenschlag and Karen Balmer, among others – were able to be strong in a time of tragedy to communicate and organize with care and love. I have witnessed over and over again MA staffers and teachers seeking Him and showering my children with their grace and gifting.
-The MA community gathered to mourn, overwhelming the Lower School chapel with 700-plus people. Again, I can’t overstate the respect such a large group of people showcased last night. “Tonight is an example of the kind of caring community we are,” Dr. Harris said. “We’re going to get through it. We trust God. He is a mighty, mighty, mighty God.”
-That we have a chance to be a shining example of God’s grace and strength in the hours, days and months ahead. No doubt, there will be challenges ahead for Minnehaha Academy. But our community has an opportunity to model for our children how to lean into our faith during difficult times, cling closer as a community — by praying and thinking of others — and reinforce Proverbs 3:5-6 – ‘Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in ALL ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’”