Orlando. Charleston. Newtown.
Now it’s my home. Last Thursday, Dallas, the city I live in has joined a sisterhood no city wants to belong to. A city grieving a mass shooting. Worshipers, children attending school, public servants, peaceful protesters. All targets.
I was not in downtown Dallas that evening, though I easily might have been. I travel those streets frequently. Since Thursday, it feels as if we are a community living inside the echo of an enormous bell that’s tolled a deafening discordant note, and its aftermath continues to shake us to the core.
Blacksburg, Virginia. San Ysidro, California. Fort Hood, Texas.
As I look at the faces of the police officers who were killed, at least two seem very familiar. One frequented our local neighborhood diner on a regular basis. Another may have accompanied a social justice walk we do every year on Good Friday—he looks like the friendly police officer on the bike who controlled traffic without being asked to, to keep us safe.
Over the past decade or two The Dallas Police Department has changed dramatically. Its history hasn’t always been positive. A century ago our police chief was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In the 1980s, in several gut-wrenching events, police were killed by citizens and several citizens killed by police—including two people over 70 years old. Those were tough times, but community activism, visionary police chiefs, and a diverse police force have made great strides in turning that around. A gunman with the objective of killing bad cops couldn’t have picked a worse target than those women and men who protect my community. But then maybe that was just an excuse to feed whatever demons were inside of him.
On Sunday a week ago, I thanked an officer for patrolling the day before July 4th for helping us address illegal fireworks in the neighborhood. On Friday, I delivered a condolence card to be shared with the flowers and notes left by others at our local police substation. We hurt with them and express it as best we can.
Today there are empty spaces once occupied by loved human beings and grief that beats pain into the hearts of those who loved those who were murdered. Women who lost their life partners. Children who lost fathers. A daughter who almost lost her mother. Parents burying children. Sisters, brothers with one member forever gone.
In the coming months, most of us will go about our business in this “new normal” while some families are forever changed. But if we honor the dead, we will continue to recognize that we have become a member of a sisterhood that no city wants to belong to. And we will find a way to figure out how we can be its last.