(Editor’s note: We bring this column to highlight an important viewpoint on Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando.)
The sermon Sunday morning in my house of worship was about love.
In light of current events that seems odd, doesn’t it? We woke to the news that a gunman with apparent ties to radical Islam murdered at least 50 people during a shooting rampage in Orlando.
Pastor Patina Ripkey acknowledged the horror 90 miles to the east. And then spent the next half-hour on the biblical concept of servant leadership-motivated love.
Maybe that was the perfect message on a day of horror.
The urge after something like this is always to strike back so it never happens again. It’s a futile gesture. If there was a way to stop the insanity that played out in Orlando though, we would have found it by now.
Tougher gun laws wouldn’t have stopped the carnage. Omar Mateen, identified as the shooter, would have found weapons anyway to carry out his twisted mission.
Closing the borders wouldn’t have mattered. Mateen was born in America.
Pointing fingers does no good either, although there was plenty of that anyway. Some folks find it impossible to resist making political points from a tragedy.
So why talk about love on a day like this?
I think we saw why.
As word spread what had happened, people wanted to do something, anything, to help.
There were long lines in Orlando to donate blood. There was a bloodmobile in Tampa taking donations from people who wanted to help their neighbors. There were prayers. There were hugs and statements of support. There were nervous calls from friends and parents to Orlando, just wanting to know that someone was safe. Online communities came together to share information.
There is evil in the world, and we just saw it again. But there is love, too, and it is stronger than evil, fear or the madness of those, no matter their nationality, who can’t accept the differences in someone that doesn’t look or think like them.
Maybe when all the investigations are done, something will show up in the shooter’s past that will be useful going forward. If he turned out to be a lone wolf who gave no warning though, what can we do to stop that in the future? Maybe nothing.
We live in a world of security cameras, screening, bomb-sniffing dogs and more guns than we can count, and none of that has kept us safe.
All we can do is go with what we know. Hug ’em tight, tell them you love them, and don’t give in.
Don’t ever give in.
Terror has many different looks, and we can’t assume the worst about everyone we meet.
And as we saw Sunday, there is a lot of goodness on even the darkest day. We have to hold on to that. Sometimes it’s all we have.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.