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“Amazing Grace” rang through the parking lot Monday night outside Club Blu Bar and Grill where a crowd gathered following that morning’s shooting.
The shooting took the lives of two teenagers, 14-year-old Shawn Achilles and 18-year-old Stef’an Strawder, and injured 17 others, ranging in age from 12 to 27. Club Blu was hosting a teen night in an effort to give teenagers “a safe place to have a good time,” according to a post made by the club’s Facebook page.
Next Level Church pitched two bright orange prayer tents in the parking lot outside of Club Blu where they offered prayer, counsel and water and snacks for community members and media who came to the scene from 10:30 a.m. on to the evening prayer service.
“You never think a tragedy like this is going to strike Fort Myers, so it really saddens us,” said Jared Rendon, the Fort Myers community director for NLC. “Obviously, it saddens us when it happens anywhere, but even more so in our city. We do a youth service every Wednesday night, and a lot of our kids are connected to the kids that attended the event.”
Kyle Jackson, the executive teaching pastor at NLC, opened the evening prayer service with a message of keeping the faith through dark times.
“Jesus, thank you,” Jackson said. “These are those moments where it’s hard to lead off by saying ‘thank you’ because there’s so many of us here tonight who are asking the question, ‘Why?’”
William Glover, a rising junior at Lehigh Senior High School and son of the pastor of Mount Hermon Ministries, another church in attendance at the service, led a prayer for the students affected from the perspective of a fellow student.
“I knew I was going to have to speak on behalf of not just Lehigh Senior High School but also youth in the city who are hurting and don’t know how to talk to God, who don’t know how to pray,” Glover said. “That was the burden I felt going up there, and I was nervous out of my mind. But, I had to speak. Our youth are broken. They’re hurting, and they don’t know how to express that.”
Glover says he wasn’t close to Strawder, who was not a congregation member of Mount Hermon but was close to many who attended as a student at LSHS, but feels grief in his passing. Two members of the church were shot at Club Blu and have since been released from the hospital.
“I hope tonight, out of everything, we unite together,” Jackson said. “I hope that tonight we leave this place in peace, that we leave this place in hope, that we don’t leave with fear anymore, that we leave with joy.”