Do you remember meeting us? It wasn’t the introduction we would have chosen. It’s been three years since you met our close-knit community on October 1, 2015.
It was a beautiful fall morning until the sound of tragedy echoed against our quiet hills. The pain reverberated through our valley and tears flowed as our safe community felt anything but peaceful. No doubt you saw us as victims. What we were was an aching community trying to find our way to healing.
Things would never be the same, but our strength would surge, and we would find what began to see as a “new normal”.
Just a few weeks later the world would turn its attention elsewhere as other communities were rocked by the fear and violence we were recovering from. More souls lost as other towns and cities have struggled to make it stop. One thing we all have in common, we won’t ever forget that day or those we lost. We still care for those who will always carry a piece of our tragedy with them.
We are still here, and we are still strong. Our waterfalls and rivers will forever flow with remarkable beauty and strength. It’s as if our surroundings reflect the community. We may slow down during times of drought but soon fill up ready to quench the thirst of the world around us. Our summer concerts are as sweet as before and we are learning to dance again. We still join together to mourn our losses and rejoice in our victories. We respect our heroes and look out for our neighbors.
Out of our tragedy came a resilience that many predicted. We found ourselves rallying around each other to help heal our broken community. We found ways to support our first responders, emergency room personnel, law enforcement and most of all, the families whose loved ones are gone or were wounded.
Hopefully we’ve been able to walk with those who may not have physical scars but emotional trauma that heals at a long drawn out pace.
Our faith communities formed stronger connections over those few weeks. To this day there are groups that saw the needs in a different light and are still ministering. Several faith leaders and pastors became chaplains to support our local emergency service communities. There are groups who still make sure that our college staff knows that they matter.
We are strong, compassionate and still here. Like any community there are those who carry their wounds like a weapon.
Instead of healing they continue to bleed with hate. We still pray and hope for their healing. As other tragedies have rocked our community, we still gather round to bring comfort and hopefully ease the pain.
Dear World, we know you heard us. You sent help from all over the country. Leaders whose communities were changed by violence arrived and held our hands as we walked over shaky ground. Disaster Relief organizations showed up to simply care. A few weeks later, they all went home.
We understand why your attention has moved on to other communities and we hope there were lessons learned that bring faith and hope. We pray for the healing of shattered souls and families. We don’t have all the answers and the “what ifs” still linger.
That day we lost friends, family and the feeling of security but we’ve refused to let go of each other.