Grown men generally do not have tears in their eyes at the car wash.
It was the morning after a student shooter took 10 innocent lives at a local high school. Our community – and beyond – was raw from the shattering event. Emotions were shallow and easily accessible for everyone.
“It just goes to show you that you need to tell everyone that you love them each and every day,” he said. His eyes were read, his voice hinting at breaking, and heartbroken.
My friend is a remarkable man. Strong, poised, and someone people instinctively want to follow. I feel the same towards him.
The morning sun began to heat the ground and air around us as a few seconds oddly move unnaturally slow. We are both hurting deeply inside and working to process how such a cold-blooded evil came to our community. Words begin to fail us and a handshake feels inadequate. Instead, we hug.
The world changes when something like this comes to town. Being a coastal community we are somewhat prepared for Mother Nature to occasionally visit and bring with her flooding, winds, and periodically a full-on hurricane. And many times there is a loss of life.
But a student taking innocent lives inside the confines of a classroom is a much different emotion for us. Not that lives lost to Mother Nature are any less valuable than those lost in the classroom, but each day we expect the former to occur in our community; the latter happens somewhere else. Or so we believed.
My friend and I easily talk when together – local business, community developments, and family. We both share a drive to help our communities and those who call them home. When Mother Nature comes to town, my friend is always one of the first to step forward to help others put their lives back together.
Only this time all we can do is pray.
I consider myself blessed to live in a community where so many people are willing to step forward and do all they can to help others. I’m told that is a part of living along the coast – after a storm hits and you find yourself down and out, you never know who’s hand will be reaching down to help you back up off the ground. Coastal DNA so to say.
But standing in the parking lot of a car wash the school shooting has put all of us in an unfamiliar space. We hurt, we want to help, but we’ve never been in this place before. The shooter has trumped Mother Nature.
We let our embrace slowly evaporate and we look each other in the eyes.
“All we can do now is pray,” he said.
And with that, there was nothing more for us to say. We part and wipe away any traces of tears around our eyes. But the one thing that will remain forever is the pain and feeling of helplessness we shared in the car wash parking lot.