In my Dec. 6 column I check in with the Works family who lost two daughters in the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs on Dec. 9, 2007.
Before the shooting, David Works was known in some circles for being an eighth-generation descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Works spoke to the media in 1999 when DNA testing showed that Jefferson had fathered at least one child from his black slave, Sally Hemings.
Subsequent family reunions of the Jefferson clan, which Works has attended,
included descendants from Martha Jefferson and Hemings, but these meetings created tension for some attendees that gave rise to long-buried feelings of victimization.
In January 2007, STAR , or Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience that was developed by the Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., was offered to Jefferson descendants.
STAR sets out to allay people’s feeling of victimization, a product of trauma, which breaks “the cycle of violence,” according to a STAR pamphlet. A big part of ending the cycle is forgiveness.
Works saw a connection to STAR principles and the mental trauma he was beginning to experience as he lay in his hospital bed after being wounded in the New Life shooting. “I decided I wasn’t going to go down that road of anger and violence,” Works told me. “I knew that unforgiveness would destroy me.”
Marie Works, David’s wife, said of the couple’s embracing forgiveness: “The decision to forgive automatically kicked in God’s grace. Forgiveness doesn’t say everything is all right, but our decision did take us to another level of forgiveness.”
But the Workses pointed out that that making the decision to forgive is not a quick fix.
“Sometimes I begin to feel what Matthew (the shooter) took from me,” Marie told me. “And it would surface from simple things, like not having the girls around to help me in the kitchen.”
The Workses attended a STAR seminar in September that they felt was highly effective, and they are gradually adjusting to their new lives.
“Things keep moving forward,” David said. “We are settling in to a new normal.”
For more on the STAR program, click here.