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Farragut shooting victim remembered


“This is still not a real thing …We don’t have a plan for this … We are wanting to be protective of each other and take care of each other [and] I watch my congregants taking care of each other.

“The spirit that is among us is not daunted, not lost. We are strengthened in community with each other,” said the Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh, Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, of the shootings at sister church Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist, Sunday, July 27.


Jafarzadeh was specifically speaking about the death of Linda Kraeger and the injuries of Joe Barnhart, his daughter Linda Chavez and brother and sister-in-law Jack and Betty Barnhart, all Westside members.

Kraeger was killed and Chavez and the Barnharts injured during a children’s production of “Annie Jr.” at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church Sunday morning.

During the play, 58-year-old suspect Jim David Adkisson, originally from Roane County, walked into the church with a Remington Model 48 12-gauge shotgun carried in a guitar case. He allegedly shot and killed Greg McKendry and Kraeger and wounded six others.

According to Jafarzadeh, it was not unusual for Westside members to be present at TVUUC services, especially for special programs.

“The three churches in the area, Westside, Tennessee Valley and Oak Ridge, work well together … we have a good relationship,” Jafarzadeh said.

As of Tuesday morning, Joe Barnhart’s condition is unspecified at the family’s request. Betty has been discharged and husband, Jack, is listed in serious condition. Chavez’s condition is listed as critical.

Kraeger, a retired professor of philosophy and religious studies, moved to East Tennessee from northern Texas with the Barnharts about 18 months ago.

“She was a wonderful, brilliant, kind person,” said Jafarzadeh, who has been minister at WUUC for only a year.

Kraeger was married to husband and high school sweetheart Duane for 42 years. The couple never had biological children because, according to a biography released by WUUC, Kraeger felt “she was needed by so many children who had already been born.”

“A mother and humanitarian in every sense of the word, Linda cared for and nurtured many who called her and considered her their mom,” the biography stated.

Kraeger and Joe Barnhart wrote several books together, including “Trust & Treachery: A Historical Novel of Roger Williams in America.” Kraeger authored a book entitled, “In Search of First-Century Christianity.”

This title is significant, as the Unitarian Universalist denomination calls itself a “free faith,” one in which “religious wisdom is ever changing,” according to a Unitarian Universalist Association pamphlet.

This attitude is allegedly the reason Adkisson gave for attacking the church. Adkisson, supposedly upset at “liberals” because of his inability to obtain a job, targeted TVUUC because the church received publicity “regarding its liberal stance,” according to a four-page letter found in Adkisson’s truck. Police say Adkisson’s former wife attended TVUUC several years ago.

“The responsibility for this is his. We have a vision, a mission and a calling in this world. We need to be true to that. We can not take responsibility for his violence and cruelty,” Jafarzadeh said of Adkisson’s targeting TVUUC.

“I don’t think there is anything logical or rational in him,” she added.

Adkisson has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of McKendry, with additional charges in the works. He is being held in Knox County Detention Facility in lieu of $1 million bond.

WUUC will be offering crisis counseling for its members, separate from counseling to be offered at TVUUC.

“We are a different community and we experience it differently,” Jafarzadeh said.

Jafarzadeh also said information will be available on WUUC’s Web site, www.westsideuu.org, for those who wish to contribute money for medical expenses of those injured.

In a difficult time, Jafarzadeh has been impressed by the “ethos” and “warm community” feeling of WUUC and surrounding churches, including Second Presbyterian Church, at which a candlelight vigil was held Monday night.

Second Presbyterian is adjacent to Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist.

“The Presbyterians at Second Presbyterian [Church] were wonderful,” Jafarzadeh said.

“I am very touched by the far-and-wide offers of help, sympathy and prayer that have come in. If I could do anything, it would be to express thanks. We feel very much supported by the community,” she added.

“Here we are in the midst of this and I am very impressed by these people … I say that knowing this is just the beginning.”

 

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