OMAHA, Neb. – A priest officiating at a funeral Mass Monday for one of the Omaha mall shooting victims said the world mourns with their families.
The Rev. Harry Buse said in the service for Dianne Trent, 53, of Omaha that the death of a loved one is always hard on families but that it is devastating to lose someone in such a violent way.
Trent was one of eight people fatally shot last week in the Von Maur department store at Westroads Mall.
"To be part of the sorrow of eight families grieving together is all the more overwhelming," said Buse, at St. Leo Catholic Church. "To grieve with family in private is also painful, but to be thrust on a national and world stage, where your grieving becomes so public and you lose also part of your privacy, is all the more difficult."
Funerals also were being held for Janet Jorgensen, John McDonald and Gary Joy, all of Omaha, and Gary Scharf of Lincoln.
Among the estimated 700 mourners at Trent's funeral was Wendy Nelson, a gift wrapper who worked with Trent in Von Maur customer service. Nelson said she had just clocked in for her shift when gunman Robert Hawkins began his rampage. She hid with other employees in a backroom.
"For me, it's time to stop running away from it," Nelson said. "I was ready to come (the funeral) an hour and a half before it was going to start. My husband kept saying, 'You don't have to go yet.' It just irritated me. I'm running. I'm just running. I want to be somewhere. A lot of us are feeling like we have to do something."
Buse said he has been heartened by the support of the community and the world.
"It is like a whole city engaged in a huge group hug, embraced you and all grieving families into one common heartbeat of love and support. It has been as if millions of hearts beat as one, sharing a sense of loss," Buse said.
Speaking outside services at St. James Catholic Church for Janet Jorgensen, 67, friend Ken Jansen said, "I'm just saddened that a wholesome person like her would be taken."
Her brother-in-law, Jeff Jorgensen of Atkinson, Neb., called the shootings "senseless."
Several white vehicles lined the circular drive outside St. John's church at Creighton University before the Omaha funeral of John McDonald, 65, of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
A funeral for Lincoln resident Scharf was scheduled to begin later Monday in Curtis, Neb., which is about 240 miles west of Omaha.
Also Monday afternoon, visitations will be held for the three other shooting victims. Then funerals will be held Tuesday for Beverly Flynn, Angie Schuster and Maggie Webb.
Flynn's funeral will be held at Glad Tidings Church in Omaha. Flynn was a real estate agent who wrapped gifts at Von Maur during the Christmas season.
Schuster's funeral will be held at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Omaha. Schuster had worked at the Von Maur store for about 10 years and was a manager in the girls' department.
The services for Webb will be held Tuesday in her hometown of Moline, Ill. Webb had transferred to the Omaha Von Maur store from a Chicago location earlier this year. At 24, she was the youngest victim of the shooting.
Police said the 19-year-old Hawkins, of nearby Bellevue, fired more than 30 rounds with an AK-47 assault rifle, striking 11 people. Six died where they fell, one died on the way to a hospital and another died despite 45 minutes of emergency treatment. Three other people were wounded, two seriously.
The mall reopened Saturday, but Von Maur remains closed. Its management said in a news release Monday that a reopening date still had not been set.
Nelson, who has been a seasonal Von Maur employee since 1998 and every year since 2001, said she would return to work when the store reopens.
"Absolutely," she said. "I look forward to it every year."
Members or adherents of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., were protesting at some of the funerals. The church, founded by the Rev. Fred Phelps, has gained notoriety for picketing funerals of military men and women who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Among the group's signs Monday outside St. John's was one that said "God sent the shooter."