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Colorado church shooting survivor looking to help others

March 3, 2018

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Laurie Works visits the memorial erected in honor of her two sisters just a couple of times a year.

“I don’t come here a ton, but more than the cemetery,” she said last month.

“It’s a special place — it’s the last place I saw them. I feel them here, when I come.”

Her family’s van was parked in the east lot of New Life Church on Colorado Springs’ north side on Dec. 9, 2007, when a 24-year-old gunman opened fire. Laurie’s younger sister, Rachel, and her twin, Stephanie, died. Their dad was shot but fully recovered.

Laurie Works wasn’t physically wounded, but says she will live with the emotional scars for the rest of her life.

She’s now on a mission to help other survivors of such tragedies. Because every time one happens, she feels sad and burdened.

“I always think about the survivors,” she said. “I was 18 when it happened, and I think about the kids.”

Works knows what it feels like to watch a loved one get killed suddenly, brutally and for no reason.

“It’s pretty horrific to see; it’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy,” she said. “The shock of it, being in that situation. There are still sounds that get to me.”

A few years ago when a neighbor had a shootout with police, she was so shook up she went to stay at a friend’s house for a few days. She took her cat.

“I could just feel my twin with me,” she said.

Unfortunately, more and more people are having the same experience as Works.

The Jan. 23 shooting at a high school in western Kentucky and the Feb. 14 school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, along with the Las Vegas concert shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, have resulted in more attention being placed on those left behind, she believes.

“Finally,” Works said, raising her hands for emphasis. “Finally, people are asking, ‘What do we do about the survivors?’”

Helping survivors has become her passion and is turning into her life’s work.

She’s studying at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to earn a master’s degree in clinical and mental health counseling. She’s on track to graduate in May 2019. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCCS.

Works also is doing an internship at the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center in Colorado Springs.

Therapy and counseling, she said, saved her life.

Another useful tool in her healing process has been The Rebels Project, a Facebook page for survivors of mass tragedy and trauma that was started by survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

She didn’t find out about the group until five years ago, when the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, happened, which was around the fifth anniversary of her sisters’ deaths.

“To be able to talk to other people who have that experience ... we share things no one else could understand,” she said. “It’s a good place to process.”

The group has seen a huge spike in membership in recent months, she said, as more mass shootings have occurred.

“It’s people who saw things, who are somehow related to a tragedy,” she said. “I’m glad we can support each other.”

On the spot where her family’s van was parked a little more than a decade ago, the parking spaces have been turned into a sanctuary in memory of Stephanie and Rachel, “who were martyred for the cause of Christ,” a stone marker says.

Two large blue spruce trees flank two stone benches, each etched with a biblical verse that Works selected.

The one on Stephanie’s is from the book of Psalms, and one of her favorites. Rachel’s is a Philippians’ passage that Rachel had included in a note to Laurie just a few days before her death.

“I was real close with Rachel — we shared a room,” Works said.

Works, now 29, no longer attends New Life Church and no longer identifies as a Christian.

“I see the divine in everything and in every path,” she says. “I choose not to put it in a box.”

She calls herself a mystic and does Tarot card readings and has created a Yoga platform she named “Resilience,” to assist survivors of trauma. The body-focused format relies on being grounded and noticing physical sensations.

“It helped me a lot, to be more present with other people, so I can empower them to heal,” she said. “It’s my passion.”

Works also wants to help families of victims of violence with ongoing funding for medical bills, mental health services and other costs related to an incident.

“The world goes on, but we are saddled with this forever,” she said. “It’s taken a long time, but people now are doing research and providing resources. It’s nice that people are finally realizing we need to take care of other people.”

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

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