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Connie Dieken

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Influencer of the Week: Chardon's One Heartbeat

Posted: 03/ 7/2012 4:35 pm

A tiny town is having a huge impact, schooling the world in how to respond to a nightmare in real time, with real grace, with one heartbeat.

Welcome to Chardon, Ohio. Population five thousand, give or take a few. Today there are three fewer, taken out by gunfire in the high school cafeteria. The shots rang out minutes after last Monday's opening bell, when a 17-year-old approached his fellow students sitting at a cafeteria table and shot them in the head from behind. He killed three and injured two others.

What's remarkable about this city is its focus. Despite the sirens, SWAT teams, satellite trucks, and helicopters, they've concentrated on what matters: Relationships. Consoling. Healing.

One heartbeat is the city's new mantra. The night of the shooting, residents gathered together at picturesque Chardon Square to hold a touching vigil. Students, parents and supporters continued to come together all week. Not to talk about the shooter. But to help each other move forward with one heartbeat.

Three days after the shooting, hundreds of students marched from Chardon Square back into Chardon High School. "We got this," one student expressed, as people lined the streets and clapped for them.

One heartbeat.

Like the heart of assistant football coach Frank Hall, who chased the gunman out of the school and wiped away the tears of the dying students until first responders arrived to whisk them away.

One heartbeat.

Like that of teacher Joseph Ricci, who pulled one of the injured into his classroom while the shooter was still at large.

One heartbeat.

Like the parents of the dead who donated their children's organs so that others could live. And mother Phyllis Ferguson, who told ABC News that she forgives the student who killed her son.

One heartbeat.

Like the four busloads of fans who supported the school's basketball team at its Division I sectional game three nights later -- and the opposing Madison High School team, who abandoned their uniforms and wore Chardon shirts to show solidarity.

One heartbeat.

Now that's influence. A city that's living purposefully with inner boldness, sharing a compelling message and displaying a collective presence that's true to who they really are. Even as they finish burying their young this week.

 
 
 

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