Bridgewater College breaks ground on memorial site for fallen officers

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 7:16 PM EST
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BRIDGEWATER, Va. (WHSV) - The Bridgewater community came together on the one-year anniversary of the February 1 deadly shooting at Bridgewater College to remember the sacrifice of fallen Bridgewater College Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer Vashon “J.J.” Jefferson.

A ceremony was held on the grounds of Bridgewater College on Wednesday to honor the officers and break ground on a memorial site that will be dedicated to them.

“In the face of the very worst our very best has been on display for all to see. We are BC strong,” said Bridgewater College President Dr. David Bushman during the ceremony.

Bridgewater students and faculty gathered in front of Memorial Hall on campus to remember their heroes and stand together as a community.

“I am grateful for John and JJ’s heroism on that day which cost them their lives but they, the dynamic duo, prevented many lives from being taken on that day. Every last one of us left this campus safe,” said Chief Milton Franklin of the Bridgewater College Police Department.

The college broke ground on a memorial for the officers that will include steel piers growing closer together and taller in an arching wall.

“This memorial site will be a place of reflection and remembrance. It will combine sculpture and landscaping that evoke the qualities of the BC community that sustained us as we grieved and healed together,” said Bushman. ”Based on the concept of individuals coming together, of connections, of community. It’s meant to commemorate the actions of John and JJ who acted together in protecting us.”

During the ceremony, there was also a reflection on the horror of the day of the shooting and how the community has been healing together since.

“One of the most striking things I remember from a year ago today was what it was like to come out of lockdown and reemerge on the campus mall. I found my friends and witnessed those around me reunite with their close people, there were tears there were hugs and for a while, we just stood out there holding one another close,” said Karis David, a Bridgewater student who spoke during the ceremony.

David said that the community has shown its care and consideration for one another in the year since the tragedy.

“I’ve learned so much from the Bridgewater College community. More than merely books and lectures can teach, I’ve learned from the people around me. I’ve learned from the experience of giving and receiving support and I’ve learned from our care for one another,” she said.

Dr. David Bushman reminded students that with time comes healing and said Bridgewater College’s support for one another and return to normal college life since the tragedy is the best way to honor Jefferson and Painter who gave their lives so everyone at Bridgewater could continue living theirs.

“We have all, every one of us, supported each other over the last year as day by day we’ve healed together and moved forward,” he said.

The Town of Bridgewater and its Police Department also held a sunset ceremony to honor Jefferson and Painter and unveiled a plack in their honor at the Oakdale Park Memorial Garden.