Originally, I was planning on focusing this week's editorial on Tuesday's elections. However, in light of everything that happened Friday, my heart just wasn't into it.
It just didn't seem right to strike up the "get out and vote" bandwagon. I figure if people haven't already made up their mind on whether they should vote, no amount of coercion on my part would make them change their mind.
Right now, I know there are many individuals out there hurting and trying to come to terms with the loss of two of our students.
There's no easy way to adequately describe what happened that evening on Frontage Road that claimed the lives of two Mountain Home Junior High School teens and seriously injured two others. Calling it a "tragedy" sounds woefully inadequate, and I'm really finding it hard to find a better choice of words. This is unusual for me since I'm usually good at finding the right things to say under difficult circumstances.
However, I will emphasize that what happened afterward can only be described as a series of tiny miracles that came together to produce something truly remarkable. While it's not clear at this point who got things rolling, the idea of holding a candlelight vigil Sunday evening spread like wildfire through the social media.
I have to admit that I'm no expert when it comes to using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the host of other social media sites out there. In fact, I learned about the candlelight vigil just a couple of hours before it was scheduled to begin, and that tip came from a secondary source.
However, I learned just how powerful these online tools can become when used for constructive purposes. You see, I was being less-than-optimistic and figured the turnout for the vigil would include maybe 10 or 20 people at best since everything came together over a weekend with schools out of session.
What I saw when I pulled into the junior high school parking lot caught me completely off guard. There were at least 50 people already milling around in front of the school entrance with dozens more slowly making their way.
By the time the vigil began, I had already lost count of how many people were there, but I can safely say there were at least 200 students, teachers and parents. Each one of them knew the names of the students we had lost, and many of them were personal friends.
Even after everyone had spoken and the candles were extinguished, the outpouring of support had gotten even stronger. Students had already begun a fundraiser with the county optimist group switching gears to turn a planned fun run into a separate money generating event to help the families of both teens.
I wish all of them the greatest of success in these efforts.
While all of this shows the positive aspects of social media, I know that it has an equally dark and often destructive side as well. Case in point: Most comments I've read to date offered prayers and condolences to the grieving families.
However, there are those out there that felt they needed to either speculate on what happened or to offer their "armchair quarterback" perspective on what they would've done differently. I'm not sure why this happens, but I get the feeling that these individuals enjoy being hurtful or simply mean spirited simply because they can do it.
To these individuals, I need to ask a couple of questions.
Will any of your comments make things better? Will it bring any level of comfort to the families that are now planning funerals versus summer vacation plans? Will it help all of the grieving students and teachers come to terms with their loss?
Then there's the even bigger question: If the same thing happened to your family, would you appreciate having to see the same type of nasty comments posted online as you deal with your own loss?
To these people, I can only say one word: Enough!
As many people in this community have clearly illustrated, this is a time for all of us to come together and provide a helping hand or simply a shoulder for others to cry on. Today's a moment for us to grieve. Let's use tomorrow as an opportunity to come together and grow stronger.
-- Brian S. Orban