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Page last updated at 18:24 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

'Community in sorrow'

A gunman has killed at least nine people in a series of shootings across the towns of Samson and Geneva in the southern US state of Alabama before killing himself.

Two local people - a priest and a journalist, describe the atmosphere in the small community trying to come to terms with what has happened.

THE REVEREND MIKE SHIRAH, GENEVA
I've been out and about this morning and have spoken to many people in town. People here are grieving and the community is still in a state of shock.
Map of Alabama

Geneva is a small community and it's very close-knit. Everyone knows everyone else here.

I've been a pastor here for 17 tears. The sheriff and I are good friends and I know most of the families here. Many of the victims are relatives of the attacker, others were targeted randomly.

Yesterday I went to the hospital to offer my help and support to the families of the injured people. I spoke to the police chief who sustained an injury. He was chasing the gunman when he got a bullet in the shoulder.

The chief is a fine man. He said he was grateful he was alive and very sad for the victims, many of whom he knew.

I also know a local businessman who was lucky to have survived an attack in Samson. He was shot at, but the gun backfired and when the killer came back to finish the job, he hid behind a vehicle.

There is a deep, deep sense of sorrow. People are asking themselves why this has happened

The attacker was very well armed - several heavy weapons were found in his car.

There are multiple crime scenes, five or six. The FBI, the ABI (Alabama Bureau of Investigation) and police in two counties are involved. It's bizarre for such a small town to be experiencing this.

This is not the norm here, for people to become deranged, but we are not exempt. These things can happen even in a small community like ours.

There is a deep, deep sense of sorrow. People are asking themselves why this has happened. Those who died got up yesterday not thinking that it will be their last day.

STEPHEN CREWS, NEWSPAPER EDITOR, SAMSON AND GENEVA
I work for Geneva's weekly newspaper and I was the first journalist on the scene to report the attack.

Needless to say, this story is very different from the stories we normally cover. We have murders occasionally, but it's mostly local council meetings that are in the news.

For our next issue we'll focus our attention on stories of policemen, investigators and law enforcement officers and how they do their work, as this is all new to them.

Both towns, Samson and Geneva, where the attacks happened, are very small and you come into contact with most people at some point.

Most people knew a victim or a family member of any of the people involved. I knew several of the gunman's relatives.

Both communities are in shock and people are still finding it hard to believe that this has happened in such a small community. They can't understand why anybody would do such a thing.

Local people are fascinated that there is so much media here on a national level but they wish life can return to normal soon.



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