I’ve spent three days trying to write this article. I transcribed the quotes. I started the first paragraph. I deleted it. Started it again. Deleted it. Moved to the middle. Started it. Deleted it again. Each time, I couldn’t find the right way to tell the story as an unbiased observer that I’m supposed to be.

The meeting, which was organized by Rev. A.J. Stack and included representatives from local government, multiple churches, law enforcement and the news media, was held Monday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

The reason:

“I think in our society, our anxiety about the safety of our children, our own general safety, even if we’re not aware of it, is wreaking havoc on us as a people,” said Stack. “So, my thought was to begin talking about how to give voice to that anxiety, as a way of taking away its power. To give space for the community to openly grieve. To give space to the community to express whatever emotions are just under the surface.”

While I had intentions of simply covering the meeting, I found myself jumping into the discussion along with everyone else. Many of the same discussions that are taking place right now on social media took place in that room, yet they were so much different. Every person, including me, spoke up about the things they saw, the concerns they had, the discussions they’ve been involved in and everyone else listened. There were no screaming matches. There were no sarcastic comments. The youngest of the group, a teenager, spoke and was heard.

I could transcribe the entire meeting and place it in this article, but really, what was discussed at the beginning of the meeting are things already being discussed on social media. The national media’s over publicizing of the shooter, the disconnect in society, safety measures at schools, guns – all of those topics and more were discussed.

The real story can’t be simply transcribed and that story is the effects of sitting down in a room and talking face-to-face with members of the community with different perspectives without the use of all caps or sarcastic memes.

While school shootings were the main topic, the topic of violence, in general, was raised and while the majority of those in the room were faith-based leaders, the importance of coming together as a community, regardless of beliefs or theology was unanimously agreed upon.

At the end of the meeting, a tentative groundwork was laid for a grassroots initiative and event to bring the community together.

The vision:

To honor and remember victims of violence and be united as community by

Stepping out from behind our screens

Promoting and supporting safety and security in our community

Standing up against violence

Helping those that are hurting by humanizing the hurt

If you or your organization would like to be a part of this initiative, contact Stack at Fr.AJ.Stack@gmail.com or (740) 590-8080. All are welcome.