On October 19, 2017 our neighborhood was blocked off and we couldn’t get back home. It was the third shooting in 11 days and the police wouldn’t let anyone enter the perimeter they created. My little corner of the world, the half mile radius my family calls home, made national news with ‘serial killer’ in the headline.
I live in Southeast Seminole Heights. More specifically, in the 10 blocks directly affected by the Seminole Heights shooter. In October and November 2017, four people were randomly killed within walking distance of my home.
One of the shootings was on my street.
I teared up when I saw the first national headline about Seminole Heights in the New York Times. The leading image was a community vigil that walked by my home. The photo is of men, women, and children flooding the street and walking with candles while the shooter was still unknown. Hope flooding the darkness with light. The world’s introduction to this tragedy was hope in the face of fear.
I read about my neighborhood on CNN, AP News, Fox News, and the Washington Post. I watched live coverage broadcasted from my street. It became normal to drive by news vans on my way home from work.
For a few months, we fully lived ‘in between.’ We lived between retreating for protection and connecting to our community. We lived between celebrating 3rd birthdays and making sure we were home before dark. We lived between baby showers and memorial walks.
The tension our community felt was a balancing act. Between fear and hope, routine and irregular, normalcy and crisis.
When the community vigil walked somberly past our home, my 2-year-old son jumped up and down while excitedly waving and yelling ‘hi.’ When a police officer sweetly waved at my 4-year-old daughter as they walked house to house she was jubilant. Their introduction to this tragedy was community.
I’m not naive enough to think this is an original story. Others across the globe are living between normal and crisis and choosing not to live in perpetual fear. Over the past few years I’ve read about tragedies in Sutherland Springs, Charlottesville, Las Vegas, Orlando, New York City, Paris, and London. Now people are reading about my city, my neighborhood, my home. It’s a chapter I couldn’t have imagined 2017 had for my family, but now it can’t be separated from my story.
God is reminding me during this time of confusion that joy can sit next to pain, and happy next to heartbreak. I’m moved by the mobilization of a community. I’m moved by the gatherings despite the unknown. I’m moved by my 2-year-old son literally jumping at the chance to say hello to someone across the street.
I see hope in the compassion of strangers. I see selflessness in the risk of law enforcement and community members. I see tangible, ‘Jesus-with-skin-on’ care poured out for my neighbors and local businesses.
Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul wrote these words equipping and encouraging the church of Philippi. I can’t help but hold onto them these days.
I find peace that “surpasses all understanding” happens during the time when peace makes the least sense. This season I saw peace amidst confusion, joy despite deep pain, and hope in the face of fear. Ignoring one without acknowledging the other wouldn’t tell the whole truth of what happened in Southeast Seminole Heights this fall.
Giving into the distress in the neighborhood, without acknowledging the stories of hope surrounding us – that’s not the full story. Focusing on the joy of the community coming together, without acknowledging the truth that four families will never be whole again – that’s not the full story either.
It’s a false conclusion to think we must choose one or the other. Both emotions in our heart mingle together to form a deeper truth about what is going on around us. Both are true, both are real, and by engaging both, almost simultaneously, we can partake in a peace that comes when not much else makes sense.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I can’t imagine living what you lived through with small children?? God certainly poured out His grace upon you to do hope and community next to fear and tragedy. I do agree with you that fear and hope and coexist. It’s not always an either/or proposition….oh that it was. We are human and fear and anxiety will sneak in sideways if they have to. This is the second time this am. that I have ready Philippians 4:7. I think God is really trying to get the message across to me, that in this fear-filled, anxiety ridden world, it is only HIS peace that will guard our hearts and minds. We can’t muster up brave on our own. We need His peace to stand guard over our hearts and minds. Claiming His truth with you today. Thank you for sharing your raw testimony so that we might have hope.
Andrea Wolloff says
Thank you for sharing that Bev! Twice this morning, it seems like God wants you to claim that truth today!
Michele Morin says
Thank you, Andrea, for your courage in living this story with such grace, and for affirming in the midst of it all the truth that is so foreign to our privileged North American ears and hearts: On this planet we live with one foot in celebration and one foot in lament. The dissonance will not be over until we see Jesus.
Andrea Wolloff says
So true! Thank you for sharing, Michele.
Angela Bowland says
This brought tears to my eyes. Tears of sadness for the suffering in this world, but tears of joy for the good that comes out of tragedy as our Creator flips it on its head. Tears as I see what your community did when threatened, they banded together in love. God is steadfast in working all things for our good as we turn to him. “Do not fear, I am with you.” Thank you for sharing this truth.
Well said. Thank you.
Such a beautiful reminder for my family as we prepare to bury our 4 month old nephew tomorrow. God is with us in every tragedy! Blessings!
I am deeply sorry for you and your families loss, and pray that you all feel the comfort of the Lord.
Thank you, Penny. <3
I am so very sorry. I know the family will lean on you for strength.
Thank you, Karen. <3
Andrea Wolloff says
I am so very sorry your family is going through this. Yes, God is with us through it all. I’m praying for your family.
Thank you, Andrea. <3
Oh, Liz!! I’m so, so sorry, friend. xoxo
Thanks, friend! <3
I’m so sorry you all were faced with such a terrifying tragedy.
Then Hope came, waving (his little arms) away……, May we never loose it (Hope).
Blessings to all,
Andrea Wolloff says
I love that visual! Agreed. Hope is for every season.
Thank you for sharing your heart and how God is walking you through a very hard reality.
Jen F. says
“This season I saw peace amidst confusion, joy despite deep pain, and hope in the face of fear. Ignoring one without acknowledging the other wouldn’t tell the whole truth of what happened in Southeast Seminole Heights this fall.”
There is so much truth here about experiencing these opposite feelings at the same time to feel the whole story. My friend just wrote a book about fear called Breaking the Fear Cycle, it’s excellent and has her raw story of experiencing peace in tragedy.
Thank you for sharing how your community came together in the midst of fear I can’t imagine.
Thank you for this post today. As we are living it right now..in our city , in our community , in our home . My son goes to MSD and our story the same here in Fla. bitter sweet is what comes to mind… lives changed for ever… God grant us peace in such trying times…. be blessed
Andrea Wolloff says
Grieving alongside you for your community. Thank you for sharing, Vanessa.
Oh, goodness. :'( So sorry that you lived through that, Andrea. I often prayed for your community during that scary time. — And, isn’t that just one of the truest mysteries of the faith—how heartbreak and hope can be fully present at once? Such a faithful God we serve, that even in the midst of pain, we have access to peace. — Will say another prayer for your community today as you all continue to move forward. ((hug))
Thank you for this! I too live in Florida, just not in Seminole Heights.
Rebecca Jones says
I have found it to be true though Proverbs 4:23 says for us to guard our hearts, it is His peace that really has to.
Beth Williams says
What a story & a testimony! It’s a shame that it takes tragedy to bring communities together. Hope & fear can & do coexist. We are fearful of the unknown, yet we have hope that God can bring some good out of it. We must not distress over tragedies, but pray for the victims & their families. We must get out & show our neighbors the love of God by coming together as a community & sharing in the pain.