So I work as a reporter at The Sanford Herald in Sanford, N.C., and my world was shaken yesterday.
We were told there was a police-involved shooting in downtown Sanford, a few hundred yards from our office. We were waiting for more information from police. Then the news came in. I’ll copy our report below:
A 28-year-old male from Sanford died Thursday afternoon of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to Sanford police.
The incident occurred around 1 p.m. in front of an abandoned business at the corner of Charlotte Avenue and First Street. Police cars blocked off a section of Charlotte Avenue while the man stood outside of the abandoned business. He was armed with a 9mm handgun and shot himself after communicating with police detectives and other civilians for about 90 minutes.
During the 90 minutes, nearby businesses closed down and people eating at La Dolce Vita Pizzeria, just yards away from the incident, were forced to stay inside the restaurant.
After the incident, EMS administered immediate medical assistance and he was transported to the emergency room at Central Carolina Hospital. He was pronounced dead by the medical examiner at the hospital.
The name of the man has not been released yet. Stay with The Herald for more.
I was shaken. Why? I’ve looked down that road before, that road of taking your own life, and it’s a dark one.
I didn’t get too far down that road, but I’ve heard stories of others that didn’t, like this young man. As I saw tributes on my Facebook feed to this guy yesterday, I saw that he was well-loved by people of all races, ages and political perspectives. People came together to remember him. I won’t print his name here out of respect for the fact I never met him, never knew him and had never even heard of him before yesterday.
But I want to believe that I’ve felt part of the pain that he felt. Obviously, something happened in his life or his mind that drove him to this drastic decision, and he felt he couldn’t go on.
I understand the impulse. I’ve struggled with enough in my life to make me think about that path — depression, anxiety, bullying, religious doubt, fear of man, despair over mistakes.
In this time, I struggle to think of what I could say to comfort those who might be hurting or mourning. I’ve never been intimately acquainted with someone who has taken their own life. I’ve known people — a former high school classmate, a distant relative, this man yesterday — that have done so. I’ve known people that have thought about it. Words just aren’t enough in this situation.
What I will recommend, and what I hope to do more of, is this: don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you OK?”
I think we’re nervous to get too invested in others’ lives for several reasons. First, we can be selfish people, and getting too much in others’ lives takes away time and attention to ourselves. Second, we don’t want to pry or make things awkward. And third, sometimes we just don’t know how to.
I’ll suggest it this way: Think about how often you start a conversation with someone and you ask, “How are you?” or in the case of Joey Tribbiani, “How you doin’?” It’s a common conversation starter. How often do you or the person you’re talking to say “fine” or “good”?
I recommend that we start taking the time to dig deeper into that. Obviously not with people you’ve just met or in professional settings, but with friends or relatives, be willing to ask, “How are you good?” or “How are you fine?” If they seem a little unsure, don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you OK? Is there anything I can help you with? Do you need to talk about something?”
The worst that can happen to you is that they say “no” and it’s a little awkward for a while. The best that can happen is that 1) you have a meaningful, productive conversation with another human being (talks that seem few and far between these days) and 2) you might bring a little hope and love into another person’s life.
Yeah, love. There’s not enough of that right now. And I’m not blaming the person’s family or friends or coworkers or whoever for not loving him enough. That’s not the point. I’m asking you who know people to show that love to others. Point them down the path of love.
I want to say one last thing, to send a message to my brother who passed on:
Yes, I know we never met, and you’ve probably never even heard my name. But you’re my brother because we’ve had similar struggles, I imagine. I love you, man. I hope and pray you’re in the arms of a Savior who loves you. I hope your life will spur others on to love. I hope your life will spur me on to love.
Thank you for this honest, beautifully stated and, perhaps of particular significance, discussion starting and silence breaking reflection.
As a person that has looked down that road many times, thank you!
Thank you, Zach, for your honesty. Blame and shame are the last things we need in this world.
Great thoughts and very well worded. Wr are all each other’s keepers and a community. Pulling together should be easier than dividing…. we can all help one another. Unite and build …. give a smile away every day.
Very well written. What the world needs is more love, compassion, and peace. May God bring it to each one who is hurting.