Tag: terrorist attacks

One year later, Orlando victim’s mom urges: Show your children ‘all the love you have’

One year later, Orlando victim’s mom urges: Show your children ‘all the love you have’

Bernadette Cruz’s 22-year-old son, Peter “Ommy” Gonzalez-Cruz, died in the June 12, 2016, mass shooting that targeted a gay nightclub.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. — She thinks of him every day — her beloved son Peter “Ommy” Gonzalez-Cruz.

Yet even as she grieves, Bernadette Cruz pushes forward, relying on her friends, her family and her faith.

Cruz’s cheerful, affectionate firstborn son was just 22 when he was caught in an ambush of gunfire on June 12, 2016 — one of 49 victims of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre.

At the first anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Cruz has a message for other parents: “Take advantage of every day with your family because you never know what can happen. Communicate often with your children and show them all the love you have for them. They will reciprocate.”

I checked in to see how Cruz is doing after writing about her son’s death last year.

As Christian Chronicle readers may recall, Gonzalez-Cruz was the nephew of my friends Luis and Tony Cintrón (they are twins). Bernadette Cruz is my friends’ sister. In my 2016 column, I highlighted a special connection that a Church of Christ in New Jersey made with the victim’s family.

On Friday, while in the Orlando area on an unrelated assignment, I took a few minutes to visit the now-closed nightclub site where gunman Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, opened fire.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In Orlando, a call for more openness, less fear

In Orlando, a call for more openness, less fear

After gay nightclub massacre, showing love to LGBT community a focus at Christian conference.

Second Place, In-Depth Reporting, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. — Sally Gary couldn’t come to Orlando and fail to visit the site of the gay nightclub massacre where 49 people died.

The founder of CenterPeace, a Dallas-based ministry that provides support and resources for people who experience same-sex attraction, said she felt compelled to pay her respects.

“I can’t imagine being here and not paying homage to the brothers and sisters who lost their lives there,” said Gary, a member of the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas.

Months before the Pulse nightclub attack, Gary accepted an invitation to speak at the Equip Conference in Orlando — a biennial event formerly known as the Spiritual Growth Workshop.

The nation’s worst mass shooting — in which 53 people were wounded in addition to those killed — provided “a very in-your-face reminder” of the urgency for churches to become more open and less fearful in discussing LGBT issues, Gary said.

Her message to the standing-room-only crowds that filled her three sessions: The person experiencing same-sex attraction isn’t a guy in a rainbow-colored bikini marching in a gay pride parade.

“It’s me,” said Gary, who grew up in the Tenth and Broad Street Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Abilene Christian University.

Read the full story.

This is the first of a three-part series in The Christian Chronicle.

A church makes a special connection with an Orlando victim’s family

A church makes a special connection with an Orlando victim’s family

How a New Jersey congregation came to bless a grieving mother who lost her son in the nation’s worst mass shooting.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. — “It’s been a while, man,” said my friend Jose Luis Cintrón, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Thirty years, to be exact.

Sadly, I called after all these years because my friend just lost his nephew, Peter “Ommy” Gonzalez-Cruz, in the mass shooting that claimed 49 lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Back in 1986 — my senior year at Keller High School, north of Fort Worth — Cintrón and I were part of a tight-knit group of friends that included his twin brother, Tony, and my brother, Scott.

We roamed the same school hallways. We worked together at a McDonald’s restaurant. On our off nights, we hung out — seeing movies like “Top Gun” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” playing co-ed softball and cruising in our super-cool cars, such as the gray 1980 Ford Pinto with manual transmission that Scott and I shared.

“Those were fun days,” Cintrón said as we reminisced before talking about his family’s unfathomable loss.

Read the full column.

This is the third of a three-part series in The Christian Chronicle.

Christians sing, pray at memorial site after Orlando massacre

Christians sing, pray at memorial site after Orlando massacre

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

After Sunday’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub claimed the lives of 49 souls, a dozen members of three Orlando, Fla.-area Churches of Christ brought flowers — and prayers — to a memorial site for the victims.

“Together we #prayforOrlando,” said a poster signed by members of one of those congregations, the Concord Street Church of Christ.

Gunman Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, targeted not just the LGBT community but all of Orlando, said Meghan Hone, who coordinates the Concord Street church’s Sonshine Street children’s ministry.

“It doesn’t matter if this terrorist shot up a nightclub or a Walmart or a gas station,” said Hone, a mother of three. “He could have walked into anywhere. This was an act of terrorism right here in my city.”

Hone, a professional opera singer, said she wanted to show love for the gay community and grieving loved ones.

“Because of my work in local performing arts, I have a lot of friends in the gay community,” she said. “I’m sure some believe that Christians don’t care about them, and we do care about them. A lot of people in the world and sometimes even other Christians have a hard time understanding that you can love and deeply care about someone even if you don’t endorse what they believe in.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the July 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Finalists named for Religion Newswriters Association national awards — and I made the list

Finalists named for Religion Newswriters Association national awards — and I made the list

By Bobby Ross Jr.

The Religion Newswriters Association has announced the national finalists for its “Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence.”

I am honored to make the list again this year.

My portfolio in the Magazine News Religion Reporting category includes these stories from The Christian Chronicle: “The broken soul of Baltimore,” “God, guns and keeping Christians safe” and “San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims.”

Winners will be announced at RNA’s annual conference in September.

San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims

San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims

Jihadist theology vs. mainstream Islam debated. 

Finalist (part of three-story portfolio), Magazine News Religion Reporting, Religion News Association

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Anger.

That was minister and elder Royce Bell’s first reaction when a friend called to tell him her son, Robert Adams, had died in the terrorist attack on county employees enjoying a holiday celebration.

In all, the Dec. 2 massacre by Islamic extremists wielding military-grade rifles killed 14 and injured 21 — stunning this city of 215,000 about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I cannot fathom a religion … that so radicalizes its adherents to where they become murderers and evildoers,” the San Bernardino Church of Christ preacher said, referring to the jihadist theology espoused by the terror group Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

The California tragedy came on the heels of coordinated suicide bombings and shootings that claimed 130 lives in Paris on Nov. 13.

Among America’s estimated 2.7 million Muslims, both attacks stirred fears of a backlash — concerns ratcheted up when presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Addressing the nation from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama declared that the San Bernardino killers “had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.”

Obama urged Americans not to define the fight with terrorists as a war between America and Islam.

“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors,” the president said.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the January 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

We Will Never Forget: My seven most memorable stories on the Oklahoma City bombing

We Will Never Forget: My seven most memorable stories on the Oklahoma City bombing

• • •

By Bobby Ross Jr.

At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, I had just stepped off The Oklahoman’s eighth-floor newsroom elevator when we heard the boom and saw the smoke in the distance.

In all, 168 people died in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil until 9/11 six years later.

Twenty years ago today, my Oklahoman colleagues and I found ourselves covering the biggest story of our lives, even as we joined our grieving community in shedding tears over an unfathomable tragedy.

I was blessed to tell many stories of victims and survivors. Here are links to seven of the most memorable:

1. Neighbor cares for boys when mom doesn’t return

Thirteen-year-old Ricky Hill and his brother Jonathan, 11, waited up late Wednesday hoping to hear from their mother.

Even as they drifted off to sleep, they clung to hope that Army recruiter Lola Renee Bolden, a 40-year-old single parent, had survived a thunderous bomb blast.

But her call never came.

The boys’ distress turned into a real-life nightmare about 1 a.m. Thursday.

That’s when three men and a woman, all clad in their best Army green, arrived at the door with the horrible news.

Neighbor Mechelle Murray, a single parent with children herself, had taken in the next-door neighbor boys when their mother failed to return home.

Even while calming Ricky and Jonathan, Murray had feared the worst.

“I immediately thought, ‘Oh my God, Renee works in that building,’ ” the 38-year-old accounting student said of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Continue reading “We Will Never Forget: My seven most memorable stories on the Oklahoma City bombing”