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Store employees respond with water, compassion

Wood Village Fred Meyer director rallied his team to comfort Reynolds parents

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Michael Brine, a 24-year veteran employee with Fred Meyer and Fairview resident, was humbled by the outpouring of support for parents and students of Reynolds High School by both customers and his staff, following the shooting on Tuesday, June 10.

At one time, Fairview resident Michael Brine had aspirations to impact lives through teaching.

A detour in college landed him as a cashier with Fred Meyer, but 24 years later, Brine made a big impact in the classroom of community compassion.

Early Tuesday morning, June 10, Brine was going about the usual opening procedures as store director for the Wood Village Fred Meyer. Freight was coming in, customers were arriving — all in all, a fairly normal day.

But shortly after 8 a.m., Brine and his employees saw “a line of 28 police cars” screaming east on Northeast Glisan Street with lights and sirens blaring. He knew something wasn’t right, he said.

“My first thought was the high school is up there,” Brine said. “I grabbed my cellphone and typed in ‘shooting.’ KGW popped up with a post that there was a shooting at Reynolds High School. I was stunned.”

Brine “rallied the troops,” calling for an “all-team huddle” behind the customer service area in the store. Quietly, he told his management team what was unfolding. He encouraged those with children or family members at the high school to leave and cautioned the rest to be mindful and sensitive to customers who would no doubt be upset. Brine then told the group his plans to provide bottled water and snacks in the parking lot. Despite their shock and disbelief, Brine said there was never a question what his team would do.

“The looks on my team’s faces — some of them knew Emilio,” he said. “I told them ‘Let’s get outside and make a difference.’ That’s the moment I’m most proud of. Even though they were upset, they all looked at me and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

By 9 a.m., Brine had been notified by Fred Meyer’s corporate office that the Wood Village location would be used as the reunification site for parents and students.

Shortly after the store huddle, Brine led about 45 employees out to the parking lot. They found officers with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s department already present taping off areas where parents had begun to arrive to be reunited with their children. Brine’s crew ferried palettes of bottled water outside and emptied the cookie shelves in the bakery department onto mobile carts.

He also called Nabisco, requesting an additional delivery of snack crackers. Directors from Fred Meyer stores at Southeast 148th Avenue, Gresham and Mill Plain in Vancouver, offered assistance, as well as the company’s corporate office, which gave Brine the freedom to do what he felt was necessary.

“Fred Meyer has always been about being part of the community because we are comprised of the people who live in the community,” Brine said. “I know some of these people — they come into my store. That’s why this was the right thing to do. The need to do what we could was right there in front of me — there were thousands of people.”

Brine said moving through the crowd as the morning wore on was tough. He dispensed as many hugs as bottles of water to his regular customers and asked if they had heard from their children. One such encounter was unforgettable.

“There was a guy who’s one of our regular customers and he’s usually very stoic and somber under normal circumstances,” Brine recalled. “He was convulsively sobbing, terrified his son wasn’t coming home. He did find his son, but that’s why I told my team in the beginning to think about how you would want to be treated if you were in that situation. You never know.”

Brine credits Lowe’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and the local Subway with contributing to the effort, as well as the Salvation Army, who brought their Canteen in to serve first responders. And as the day progressed, Brine and his employees also brought out sunscreen and chairs for those still waiting to reunite with their children.

Brine calls the day “kind of surreal.”

He was surprised by customers who wanted to pay for the goods Fred Meyer supplied that morning, and humbled by how his employees never questioned what to do.

At a staff meeting Friday, June 13, Brine praised his team for their compassion under the most horrific circumstances. It was a “somber moment,” he said.

“I told them how proud of them I was,” Brine added. “But this is not supposed to happen in our lifetime. Life is chance. You have an opportunity to make things happen if do you the right thing and I’m very grateful and proud that both the company and our employees were able to help.”

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