We had just arrived downtown for our Sunday afternoon date. We have been attending the Florida Theatre these past few months for their Summer Movie Series. We were happy to get out of the hot weather and chill inside the theatre watching The Big Lebowski.
As we drove around looking for a place to park, suddenly there were police cruisers screaming through downtown along with many rescue units. We wondered what could be going on but didn’t think too much about it.
We grabbed our popcorn and settled in for the movie to start.
And then…the couple in front of us phone lit up and they started whispering to others around them. Everyone was grabbing their phones and all seemed upset.
I pulled mine out of my purse and there they were – calls, texts, and messages from my family and friends. “Are you okay?” “Where are you?” “Please answer your phone, Mom.” “Call me!” “Did you hear about the mass shooting at The Landing?”
My sweetheart and I went into the lobby and returned calls and assured everyone we were okay. I was shook up and trembling. We were about two blocks away from the tragedy and I have dear friends who work there. I was in angst wondering what was going on.
The police officer who stands guard at the theatre told us there were more than 200 units down at the Landing. He offered to walk us to our car. He was a true gentleman and I felt safer knowing he was there.
We decided to go back inside the theatre and try to watch the movie. It was tough to do it but we wanted to make sure things had calmed down before we got in our car and attempted to leave downtown.
When the movie ended, we walked to the car. The air seemed different. It was more still. People were quiet. No one was laughing and talking about the movie. We were focused on getting home to safety.
We watched the news all night and heard the story about a young man who couldn’t handle losing a video game. He decided life was not worth living and he needed to take a few good men with him too. Innocent lives lost to a mad man again. This has been a terrible weekend for LIFE in our community.
This morning I write to let you know how much I appreciate every police officer and rescue personnel who drove into the shooting area – not knowing if the shooter was on the loose. I have much respect for those who serve us and run into the tragedy while we run away from it.
As much as the police are hated in this world — when tragedy strikes, I praise them for being there and fearlessly running into the battle zone. Sure not all of them are good people but the majority of them are. We need to respect them more than we do in this world of anger and hate that has permeated our society.
And this morning, the song, “If I can Dream” came to my mind and the lyrics are my hope for my community and this nation we live in. Why can’t we dream of a better land — where all my brothers walk hand in hand — why can’t my dream come true? Why?
Join me in praying for healing and hope for everyone in our city and our nation who feels unloved. Be kind today to someone who seems lost. There are so many walking around us.
And I’m going to keep dreaming because I believe all hope is not lost. We will find a way to restore love in this nation – somehow, someway.