Last Thursday there was a mass shooting in my hometown.
One may have sympathy for another city as terrible things take place, but now I can have empathy. I know the feeling of fear, worry, utter heart-break when innocent people–my people, our people–are terrorized by an outsider. Although I do not know anyone who was involved personally, I still feel despair for their families. The blood that the children had to see, the screaming, the terror, not knowing where this terror might lay or what it even was.
I’ve watched hours of news feed, listened to opinions on the radio, read selfish and selfless reactions on social media, and finally read about my hometown in The New York Times. New information comes out everyday. This madman with a degree and history of abuse and vandalism planned the shooting at the theatre. But…why? Maybe we will never understand. With all of the horrifying incidents around the country, I have been a little paranoid. These kinds of events can happen anywhere, and sometimes there is no way to prepare for them other than making sure to stay calm and be aware that something could always happen. But…who likes to live in fear?
In my Louisiana Literature class earlier that fateful Thursday we spoke about trauma–how hard it is to talk about something so personal. We read a book titled Jesus Out to Sea, a collection of short stories by James Lee Burke. (Extremely talented author; you should check him out.) I realized in his short story “Jesus Out to Sea” that our faith in Christ is our last hope; our only hope. He tests us with tragedies to see if we truly trust in him to heal our hearts and combat evil. Perhaps he is correct when a character in the story “The Night Johnny Ace Died” said that there are no answers to the “big mysteries” in life. Will one ever be able to decipher the exact reason people shoot other people? How someone can target complete strangers in a strange town? Will the “big picture” really come to us “in the quiet moments” while we reflect on this horrifying event?
My appreciation for literature ranks a lot higher than some, but is also way below others, and I believe that reading allows us to understand trauma. It makes us open our minds to have sympathy for the perpetrator, as well as for the families involved in these events. And so the grieving process begins.
Friday was unusually quiet around town. On campus, there were people talking, but never more than a mumble. There was no horse-play (as if that is acceptable on a college campus anyway) or uncontrollable laughter. The city was silent. Cars ran to and from work, but the roads were otherwise vacant. No one went to see a movie. It felt as if we had caught a disease and everyone was staying indoors to keep away from it.
This is a difficult time for our city and our state. It is amazing the number of people who have shown love in and out-of-state. That stranger came here to attack and break our community, but he probably achieved the opposite. Of course he couldn’t get away. What was he thinking? In fact, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to understand the way these people think. I know he was probably mentally ill, but mentally ill or not this event has left a scar in all of our hearts.
I send my prayers to all of the injured, their families, and all those who experienced that night at the theatre. I am heart-broken. We are one, we are Lafayette.