The City of Amsterdam has teamed up with school administrators and mental health experts to make sure students and parents know free resources are available to help cope with the shooting deaths of two local teens.
On Thursday night a forum held at Amsterdam's Riverfront Center offered the community paperwork, connections, and one-on-one contact with the professional counseling they need.
Death is brutally tough to deal with to begin with, but when it's a child or a teen, or in this case two teens who have died, it's even tougher for friends and family to grasp and cope.
The experts stressed that it's ok to grieve, to ask for help, and even to have bad days, but it's not o-k to shut down, cut off, and isolate.
This tragic story began with a missing persons poster, devastated a community with a grim discovery in a Montgomery County soybean field, and struck grief amongst just about the entire city of Amsterdam.
News that 13-year-old Jonathan DeJesus and his friend, 16-year-old Paul Damphier had been shot and killed, allegedly by two other teens in town was beyond hard to digest.
Calvin Martin is Paul Damphier's older cousin.
He made it a point to attend Thursday night's grief counseling session to show his support for the community, and to thank the city, the district and mental health experts for offering services.
"It's unbelievable. Words can't even, you can't even put words around it. But it is a very big deal. And, that's why I said, when you have a big deal like this, something has to happen. You can't just talk about it at the coffee shop," Martin said.
And thanks to the resources made available by the city, 'something' is happening.
Steve Siegard is the Program Director for St. Mary's Children's Mental Health Clinic.
He's heading up the effort to get students, parents and adults connected with the services they need.
Siegard said, "Help is available. And we will make sure that if you have a request for something that you need, we will do what we can to help."
"Our goal is to get people talking to each other, about what could help their friends, what could help their children, how they could help each other in grieving the loss of these two children," he said.
Siegard says there are some simple things those in mourning can do to help themselves or others get thorough a terrible tragedy like this.
"Anything that will help keep you from 'doing things too much, or too little' (such as) sleeping too much, so (then) get up! You know? If I'm staying home and I'm not getting out, well, let's get you out with someone. It's important to be around people. It's important to just take care of basic things that you need in life. It's important that people are keeping track with you. You know, how's it going? Do you have what you need? Is there a way I can help?," Siegard explained.
And after seeing the low attendance at the grief counseling session, Paul Damphier's cousins say that message needs to get out there now.
Calvin Martin said, "I know the weather kind of messed things up (for this forum) a little bit but we're going to get these kids, you know? (Even) if we gotta go to where they (the students) are, and if that means, parks, we'll set up these chairs (to offer services) in the park , or whatever. We'll go to them because this needs to happen, you know?"
Damphier's cousin Casey Martin agreed saying, "I mean, it's tough, just the way everything happened and went down. Everyone is just in shock, and everyone just wants to come together and show support and love. (We want) to try to make a turn for the best for our community. (We're) trying to come up with different ideas for the kids and the youth, and not just them but everybody, even adults."
School Superintendent Thomas Perillo says every school building in Amsterdam features a trained, 'Crisis Intervention Team,' but admits nothing prepares you for the deaths of two teens within one school district, at the same time.
"The Crisis Intervention Teams are always prepared for all different types of emergencies and disasters and catastrophes but in a situation like this, you have to go through it first," Perillo said with a sigh.
Perillo also says the time to get help to Amsterdam students, is right now.
"I think when everyone comes together and goes back to school and those students (DeJesus and Damphier) are not there, it may have a little bit more of an impact, so we have to be ready and prepared for that," he said.
Over the phone victim Jonathan DeJesus' family told FOX23 News they were grateful to hear about the counseling services being offered.
They also want to be clear that Jonathan was NOT friends with either of the suspects, 15-year-old Matt Phelps or 16-year-old Anthony Brasmiester.
Brasmiester is due in a Town of Florida courtroom Friday afternoon.
On Monday July 30, a 'Spaghetti & Meatball Memorial Benefit' is being held from 4-8 p.m. for the families of the two victims at Parillo's Armory Grill at 67 Bridge St. in Amsterdam.
Tickets are $10 a piece, and the proceeds will help defray the cost of the final arrangements for the DeJesus and Damphier families.