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Franklin Graham: God loves each one of the victims

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Charlotte-area chaplains are on their way to Connecticut to help in the wake of a deadly elementary school shooting that left nearly 20 children dead.

A gunman reportedly opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut early Friday morning killing at least 27 people, 18 of them being school children.

According to a spokesperson for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, chaplains with the team's Rapid Response unit should be in Connecticut within hours.

The first wave of chaplains are being diverted from New York, where they have been helping victims of Superstorm Sandy.

"The chaplains will intervene in a time period of anger and shock and denial and they are very well versed and trained on how to deal with this type of situation," spokesperson Erik Ogren told WBTV.

Ogren told WBTV that a second wave of chaplains is expected to leave Charlotte on Friday night.

"The community itself is going to be in shock and denial," Rapid Response Team deployment manager Al New said. "Then anger comes in. We're just there to try to provide some comfort to them."

New said the chaplains deploying to Connecticut are some of the team's most seasoned, with experience dealing with mass shootings, either at Virginia Tech or the Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre tragedy in July.

"Residents are going to ask ‘How did this happen?' or ‘Why did this happen?'" New said. "We don't have the answers. And we can't even begin to understand what they're going through. We just try to provide them some hope."

"Senseless killings like the one we've seen today in Newtown, Conn., leave us stunned and looking for answers," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "The Bible tells us the human heart is ‘wicked' and ‘who can know it?' My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community."

"One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that God loves each one of the victims and all those who are suffering right now as a result of this vicious act," he continued. "My hope and prayer is that our entire nation will embrace the community of Newtown with our love and cover them with our prayers, asking for God's perfect comfort and peace in the midst of this dark hour."

Since the ministry launched in 2002, the Rapid Response Team has deployed to more than 125 disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and shootings.

The network of chaplains encompasses 48 of the 50 states.

Copyright 2012 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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