Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kirkwood...One Year Later

It was just before 7pm on a bright, Thursday, February night when my evening napping was interrupted simultaneously with a "breaking news report," helicopters swirling above, and phone calls from family and friends. The unthinkable had come to this quiet suburb that was slowly becoming my transplanted home.

My husband and I watched the news coverage in disbelief, part of me wanted to throw on my clothes and race the few blocks to City Hall, the other part of me was glued to the television all night. Inside, I wanted to go back to my home in Lee's Summit on the other side of the state, I didn't sign up for living in a community where the unthinkable could happen.

Yet it did happen, it tore open a wound that many in this town of 28,000 have worked hard to heal. There was the shock and disbelief. A crowd that rivaled the National Mall on Inauguration Day filled the square on Kirkwood Road for a candlelight vigil the next day. Everyone was crying and hugging, trying desperately to wrap their minds around something that was beyond reason.

A proud, loved, jovial citizen of the city had taken out, in cold blooded, calculated murder, what would eventually be six of the city servants. How could this happen? What made him do it? Why would he do this? Where do we go from here?

Amidst the funerals, memorials, flowers, teddy bears, wreaths, were the tears of a community, including the tears of the fallen city leaders families, children, spouses, and yes, the assailant's widow who lived over five states away, her job keeping her where the family had ancestral land. The tears flowed for an elderly mother who didn't understand how this happened any more than the rest of us.

Today is the one year anniversary and as I sit here reflecting back, preparing to go to a day of memorials, I wonder if we have healed.

There were dialogue sessions that brought two races together, the underlying conflict between the rich and poor, haves and have-nots, influencers and powerless. Many sought to reach across the railroad tracks to find a hand, invoking what our new administration says as if you unclench your fist, you will find an extended hand.

I think about all the good that has happened in this community over the last year. Students were tutored and mentored, families ate meals together, dialogue happened in large groups and small sessions, new city council members were elected and have taken steps to listen to all, people have coffee, walk together, children play together, fear and anger is replaced with hope and love.

Perhaps we can close the door to this now. The families directly involved will always have the empty chair at the dining table, the missed hugs, the memory of butterfly kisses in the air, but it is time. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. It is time for Kirkwood to reach for the morning.

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