ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Parishioners arriving at Allendale United Methodist Church for Sunday service noticed an increased safety presence. The church has been on alert since someone shot through one of their preschool windows on Thursday.
It was the first time the Edwards family had been back to the campus since the incident. Makena Edwards, 4, told her parents she didn't want to attend Sunday school.
“She couldn’t really verbalize what was going on, she just, her tummy hurts and she didn’t want to go to class,” explained mom Victoria Edwards.
Makena had been at the preschool on Thursday when a bullet crashed through the 2-year-old's classroom window, just one floor below where she was learning.
“She told me when I picked her up, there was a shooting at my school and I was coloring with Pastor Andy. She didn’t really grasp what that meant," Victoria Edwards said.
Police are still investigating whether it was a targeted attack or a stray bullet. Regardless, Allendale is taking steps to better protect their school and church like adding security cameras around campus.
The school is reopening on Monday, and Victoria Edwards intends to bring her daughter back to class.
“We don’t want to live in fear, we don’t want to parent in fear. But we want to make sure our community is safe for everyone’s kids," she said. "So she will be in school tomorrow and we will be at the parents meeting tomorrow. “
Reverend Andy Oliver has had consistent communication with parents and parishioners since the shooting. He used his Sunday Sermon, and his marquis sign, to send a clear message about the matter.
“God through Isaiah is calling us to remember, as tragic and horrific as this bullet has torn apart our lives here today, and this week. That it is the daily experience of black and brown, LGBTQ, Jewish and Muslim communities. They have been living in that reality, much longer than we have," Oliver preached.
And once Victoria Edwards' family and the church heals, they promise to take action and prevent shootings like this from occurring again.
“We obviously pray for safety. We want our community to be safe, we want our children to be safe. But then we go and call our representatives and we write letters and we go to Tallahassee and do those things as a community," she said. "We want to feel like we’re safe, but then we want to tangibly be safe as well.”
It's an idea echoed by Oliver, “Things have to change in our country. And we have been on the front lines of that change, and we will continue to do that.”
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