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A saddened community starts to heal

January 19, 2008

To the editor:

I just feel that it would be negligent to be silent regarding the events of Dec. 19 and the loss of Alison Munson and Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Nicholson.

What happened on that night startled us all. People, in fear of their lives, guarded their family and homes. Emergency personnel worked under the fear of attack. There were horrible scenes, mixed with a public safety concern to minimize the destruction.

All of this here in our quiet and lovely town of Smithsburg.

In the days that followed, I have heard the details of the event. I have also heard the cracking voices and the deep sadness of a situation that has gone too far. A situation that has cut deeply into the fabric of what it means to be a community, to be good, to be Christian. "I can't make any sense of this," someone said. This statement says it all.

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The events of that night will haunt us for a long time as we relive them as justice is sought through the courts. But the court's verdict won't explain it all or take away the pain of an officer dying in one of our cornfields or the death of a mother of two.

So what do we do? I think the healing process starts when we forgive. We must put a stop to the forces of hate and anger that make situations like this happen. We remember who we are as children of God.

First, we honor Christopher Nicholson. We knew him as an unpretentious police officer who had a gentle way of maintaining peace and order in our community. He was a well-liked man and a man with a future here.

He was a man who was quickly becoming a part of who we are as a community and a town. He was a man who cared for people and cared for us. We honor those aspects in him and honor him for taking the risk of being a police officer on our behalf. We need to remember those whose hearts have been broken by Christopher Nicholson's sacrifice - his fiance and his mother and dad.

Second, we memorialize Alison Munson. Known to us or not, she was one of our community and had family and friends all around us. She had two children, one of whom is a year old and another who attends Old Forge Elementary. We need to pray for and remember her family as they piece together their lives in the shadow of this tragedy.

Third, we need to remember the family of the suspect. They are part of us as part of our community. They are suffering over this situation and the heartbreak of an irrevocable pain. We need to support them and walk with them down an uncomfortable road of sorrow, reflection, second guessing and heartbreak.

But also, we must remember ourselves. We must remember what right and wrong is and that we want what is right for ourselves and our community. We must reinforce our support of Smithsburg governance and our police officers. They are people who are doing a job for us and need to be constructively guided and universally supported.

But we must remember that we are a community of God's people. That we have chosen a way of life that honors the relationships we have with God and each other and the trust that we can put in our neighbors and friends.

We have a community that lives in trust and support of each other. In fact, it will be strengthened because with our soul searching, with the love that we have for each other, we will find a way to recognize and defuse potential eruptions long before they turn into incidents of violence.

So, I suggest that we all seek an understanding of our own feelings. Go to God in prayer of lament, sorrow, forgiveness and determination to show love to the family members who remain, but also to each other. We must grow as a community committed to the common values of neighborly love and to prevent and protect each other from this sort of thing so that it never resurfaces again.

May our gracious God deliver us from all harm.

Pastor Gerry Johnson
Trinity Lutheran Church
Smithsburg

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