• 55°

Brookhaven unites when it matters most

They waited patiently in the midday sun for the motorcycles and blue lights. Infants in strollers, grandfathers in lawn chairs, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. People stood at attention along Hwy. 51, and Brookway, and throughout downtown Brookhaven, and into the county.

Jennifer Blue brought her young children to see the procession for Brookhaven police officer James White on Wednesday. They were among the hundreds, maybe thousands, who stood with hands over hearts and waved flags as the funeral procession for White made its way through Brookhaven.

The scene repeated itself Thursday for Cpl. Zach Moak. Both White and Moak were killed in the line of duty last week. The two men have rightly been called heroes, and will forever be remembered as such. Moak died trying to save the life of White when he arrived at the scene on North Sixth Street.

Those who gathered on roadsides to honor these men asked the same question: Why? Why these two officers? Why Brookhaven and Lincoln County, again? Why has this community suffered so much?

There are no simple answers. It would be easy to blame drugs, a lack of respect for life and law, poverty, gangs. And those are all factors, but they come up short in fully explaining this tragedy. Every city in Mississippi faces those problems, yet this does not happen in every city in Mississippi.

Many have called it “evil” and they are right. But evil is everywhere, not just in Brookhaven. So why here?

We may never know why this community has faced the unthinkable three times in the past 18 months. We may never fully understand the reasons. But we can work on the “what now?”.

What do we do now that this tragedy has happened? What does Brookhaven as a community do in the face of such horror? That question will need to be answered by the entire community, across racial, political and economic lines.

This is not a challenge only for the law enforcement community, or the business community, or the community where the shooting occurred, or the community surrounding these grieving families, or the faith community. We all must face the question of “what now?”.

The answers may be difficult, but they are worth pursuing. Justice must be served, that much is certain. The community can’t heal without justice. Peace won’t come without it.

Among the uncertainty this past week, two things were made crystal clear under the hot sun Wednesday and Thursday:  Brookhaven is hurting, but not broken; and Brookhaven can come together when it matters most. We would argue it matters now more than ever.