COLUMBIA, Md. - It didn't take long for a Facebook group dedicated to the victim's of the shooting in the Mall in Columbia reach thousands of friends, family, acquaintances and generally anyone who wanted a better idea of who Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson were.
About 5,000 Facebook users joined the group by Sunday night. The page was established by Benlolo and Johnson's mutual friends with the intent to help raise money for Benlolo's 2-year-old son, although plans are still very preliminary.
Instead, the group's administrators communicated two gatherings to remember Benlolo and Johnson: a memorial at 1 p.m. Monday and a vigil at 5 p.m. on Thursday, both at the Mall in Columbia.
"My heart breaks for these families," Ronda Butler Washington, a group member. "No parent should ever have to bury a child, and this just makes the loss that much deeper!
"As a mom who has buried a child, I understand the pain and anguish," Washington's post continued. "You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Take things one second at a time. God can and will heal your hearts with each passing day."
Columbia resident Destiney Dunn wrote: "They were both such sweet people I can't believe they are gone. Seems like only a little while ago Brianna was giving me tips on make-up. May angels take you home."
Tyler Bohn shared a personal story about what Benlolo meant to him and his struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"She told me long boarding was the only thing that helped her and I should try," Bohn wrote. "I trusted her judgment and [she] said make me a promise ... ‘you get this board and ride the hell out of it! And whenever your riding you won't think ... and that's a good thing' ....well...Abt (sic) 800 miles later I'm doing just that! I thank you rest easy up there. Everything happens for a reason."
Many messages on the page focused on prayer and condolences for the victims' families. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, issued a statement with his sympathies, in a separate release to the media.
"On behalf of the entire family of faith in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I extend our heartfelt prayers for the victims of today's tragic shooting, and for their families and friends, asking the God of life and of love to bless them with consolation and strength," Lori wrote.
"May this day of sorrow, during which we have witnessed but the latest act of senseless violence in our society, turn our hearts and minds anew to the dignity and value of every human life," the statement continued. "May this day spur us on to work and pray for the day that, with every person respected and loved, we will be free from such violence and fear."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents Columbia, issued a statement as well:
"I am deeply saddened to hear of another senseless act of violence committed today at the Mall in Columbia, in my district. While we do not yet have full details of what has happened, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and those injured in the shooting. I commend the work of law enforcement officers and first responders currently on the scene for their quick and highly professional work in securing the mall and getting people to safety."
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