WNY volunteers hit the ground, ready to help in Orlando

ORLANDO, FL (WIVB) — Two trained western New York trauma counselors are on the ground in Orlando after a devastating shooting claimed the lives of 49 victims, leaving 53 others injured.

Survivors and families of the victims are just beginning the long road to recovery, and Tara Hughes and Peggy McGee-Smith are ready to help them heal. They’re in Florida to help by listening to victims and begin processing their grief.

McGee-Smith, who helped in Newtown, Connecticut along with Hughes after the Sandy Hook shooting, said situations with mass casualties are difficult all around because going into the large loss of life, most families are already dealing with their own issues.

The amount of stress and grief presents large issues for counselors.

“The intentional part of that can make the initial stages very difficult,” Hughes said. “For people to wrap their head around why it happened…and why did it happen to their loved one.”

But Hughes said it can become more complicated when factoring in the fact that the LGBTQ community was the clear target of the shooting, saying some families will inevitably either be surprised to learn their loved one had been active within that community.

Their time in the next few days will be occupied with helping families take the step from shock to coping. They could be in Orlando for several days as the process moves forward.

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