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While this was intended to be an article about moving forward after our unimaginable tragedy, this missive is really a thank-you letter to our PHCC brothers and sisters — our PHCC family — who have provided us continued strength and hope. As many of you know, GSM Services lost two well-respected HVAC service technicians, James Lewis and Robert Shook, who were killed during a mass shooting on the afternoon of April 7 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. These were two of our best, and my brother Steven and I, along with the rest of the GSM organization, are strengthened more than ever with all the love, compassion, and outreach from the PHCC family and phc community. There is no doubt that while we and the Lewis and Shook families are struggling in our collective grief over this senseless act of violence that took James and Robert away from us, we know that, together, we will prevail!
This incident is one of many workplace tragedies in the United States so far in 2021, but you never imagine that it can happen to one of your own. What continues to uplift me is the instantaneous outpouring of love, condolences, and support for the Lewis and Shook families as well as for the GSM Services organization. The support made our loss their loss, our pain their pain, and our hope their hope for strength to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and look beyond our despair for a positive way forward.
With so many yelling at the dark these days — with monologues displacing dialogue — I can reaffirm that there are good people around us, with good intentions, doing good things. We know more than ever that light outshines the darkness and good defeats evil. One only needs to look at the GoFundMe account set up for the families to witness the incredible outpouring of support.
Robert and James left early one spring morning to answer a service call and died doing a good thing. I believe that the outpouring of compassion from so many is a result of the recognition that this industry is full of folks just like them — professional heroes who provide an essential service while protecting the health and safety of their customers. They are honorable tradespeople that should be held with great esteem and whose loss leaves a sense of vulnerability within our communities.
As TV personality Mike Rowe points out, “Our civilization is held together by people who keep the lights on, pipe connected, and who keep it warm in the winter and cold in the summer … Our relationship with these people is critical, and that part of our workforce is fundamental to society...” (Candace Roulo, "Mike Rowe joins home services companies to promote skilled trades," 2015.)
So, we are grateful for the outreach and support for these two families and for our GSM Services team. We just want to simply say thank you for your support and to let you know we have been bolstered and inspired because of your love.
My brother, Steven, read this quote as he finished his part of James Lewis’ funeral, and I thought I would share. To me, this sums up how we see our path forward…our charge, if you will, toward an outcome that can make sense of this tragedy. WE WILL PREVAIL.
“The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of life is to serve.
The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend.
The beauty of life is to give. The joy of life is to love.”
— William Arthur Ward
Editor's Note: Officers responding to a 911 call on April 7 found Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife, Barbara, 69, and two of their grandchildren, ages 5 and 9, shot and killed in the back of the Lesslies' house outside the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina. Also killed in the mass shooting were HVAC techs James Lewis and Robert Shook, both 38, who were wrapping up a service call at the home.
Lewis and Shook worked for GSM Services, Gastonia, North Carolina, which is owned by Steven and Joel Long. Joel is the 2020-2021 PHCC—National Association President-elect and wrote this thank you to the PHCC family for their support during this time. A GoFundMe account set up for the families of Lewis and Shook has currently raised more than $380,000.