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Lori Gard Headshot

These Men Were Fathers And Sons And They Were Loved

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dallas memorialKeaka Wallace who says she was a patrol partner of slain DART officer Brent Thompson, weeps as she leaves a makeshift memorial at Dallas Police Headquarters. (Photo: Reuters)

This past week, our world has been rocked to the core. We watched, shaken and cringing in horror, as civility crumbled and chaotic confusion seemingly ruled the day. Communities to our Canadian south fell captive to the terror of gun violence and racial tension, to start naming a few issues, while we northerners watched news coverage on our televisions or computer monitors, slack-jawed, shocked, outraged.

We know this is not our week in the news -- we are not as prone to this kind of media exposure. But we are also not off the hook entirely.

In reading about neighboring Nova Scotia's Halifax homicides in 2016, a line buried somewhere in the middle of the piece catches my eye, summing up my feelings today succinctly. Speaking of slain basketball player Tyler Richards, Emma Jones of CBC News includes this quote: "The real bottom line here, despite however this thing went down, is that a family has lost their son and a little girl has lost her father." (Quote provided for CBC by Steve Konchalski, Richard's basketball coach when he played for St. FX from 2004 to 2009.)

These individuals were fathers and sons. Never mind the colour of their skin or uniform they wear. They were people.

This is the bottom line: these individuals were fathers and sons. Never mind the colour of their skin or uniform they wear. They were people.

These past days, what we have witnessed in viewing coverage and stories about the families of the dead, is that the loss for them was not just a Black life or a Blue life: it was so much deeper. Here are a few details about the loss of life these past few days:

Alton Sterling, father of four boys: described as just a man trying to earn a living to care for his boys. He was a father.

Philando Castile, soon-to-be stepfather to a four year-old little girl: known for his fist bumps and kindness in slipping kids extra graham crackers at his job in a Montessori school. He was a beloved cafeteria worker.

Brent Thompson, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer, just got married two weeks ago. I can't even imagine what his young wife is experiencing.

Patrick Zanmarripa, a U.S. Navy Veteran, beloved daddy to two, along with being a dear son and brother, was said to have been very giving. And it was also stated that he loved being a dad.

Michael Krol, a dedicated police officer, was described as a big guy with a big heart. He is survived by his girlfriend, Marie.

Lorne Ahrens, a Dallas Officer, described as always having a smile on his face. He was a father to two, the husband to a woman that worked in his police department.

Michael Smith, a Dallas police officer, was a father of two girls and husband to Heidi, a teacher. And that last detail brings it close to home for me because I am a teacher too. I can't even imagine what she is going through today.

The loss of these lives is senseless, tragic. Needless. Heartbreaking.

The lives that were taken were not just Blue or Black or any other colour or label. They were more than a label. They were loved.

But the bottom line is that somewhere in the United States today, children will be sobbing because they will never see their Daddy again. Somewhere in the United States today, women will be doubled over in grief because their men will never be coming home to them again. Somewhere in the United States today, mothers will be weeping the loss of sons. Fathers will lament the loss of their boys. Sisters, and brothers, and aunts, and friends: all will be mourning. Because the lives that were taken were not just Blue or Black or any other colour or label. They were more than a label.

They were loved.

I have two dear friends on Facebook that put things into perspective for me yesterday. One is the wife of a Black man, the other the wife of a white police officer. Both wrote of the fear and desperation they felt knowing that their respective spouses were targets, albeit for different reasons. But what they share in common is that they fear someday--- at the end of some, long day in the not-so-distant future--- they fear that their respective Loved One might not walk through that door into their arms.

They both essentially feel the same: they love someone they know could be taken, because of their colour.

Different colours + similar fears = same love.

They are individuals with real personalities and lives and homes and people who love them.

So this morning as I write this, my heart is broken -- broken for friends, broken for humanity.

Broken for Black men. Broken for White men. Broken for Black women. Broken for White women. Broken for Black children. Broken for White children. Broken for Asian peoples, Hispanic peoples, Indian peoples. broken for Muslim peoples. Broken for gay people. Broken for straight people. Broken for people who wear the uniform.

I am broken inside for all the people.

And in having a broken heart, I also recognize that part of the brokenness I feel is for the love and light that each one of the lives lost represents to their various families. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to confirm that these names I have listed above are actual people. They are individuals with real personalities and lives and homes and people who love them.

Sometime we forget. We forget this.

Only when we as a society can cultivate respect for one another and thus value each and every life that crosses our path will we ever see a change in the statistics.

We MUST look deep within our hearts and find the ways to see individuals for who they really are: loved and cherished people. We must expand the respect and love we have for our fellow brother and sister. The future of our world depends on it.

These men listed above were loved, cherished, valued and made in the image of God Himself.

Philandro was the 123rd Black person to be killed by law enforcement this year (this, according to stats put out by Sirry Alang, an assistant professor in the Health, Medicine and Society Program in Lehigh University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology in Bethlehem, PA).

The senseless deaths of five officers killed while protecting the public this week in Dallas bring the tally of officers killed in the line of duty in the U.S. in 2016 now to 58.

Heartbreaking.

Only when we as a society can cultivate respect for one another and thus value each and every life that crosses our path will we ever see a change in the statistics.

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