I used to feel safe here.
Then something happened in America. People began to unmask.
Neighbors revealed themselves as bigots. Respected men as perpetrators. Leaders as school-yard bullies.
The worst in us started to emerge. And with it came our fear. Our doubt. Our anger.
We Americans shared everything online. And there, we found others just like us. Every opinion. Every ideology. Every belief could be validated by strangers.
For some, this became a good thing. Nationwide people connected to make our country better. Many showed themselves and accepted others as is, embracing differences, exploring common ground.
Sadly, with the outpouring of America's heart, so much evil spilled out. It always existed here. But where fire once flickered, it now rages.
These faces on the news, men with incomplete backstories and disturbed minds, these too are Americans. They are our underbelly come to surface. And, in today's culture, they too feel less alone.
Now religious havens, once seemingly sacred, draw in their evil intentions. Some have lived long enough to remember when black churches were bombed and burned by segregationists. However, attacks like the mass shooting that took the lives of at least 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, and the 2015 death of nine during a Bible study at Charleston, S.C., are different: more random, more sinister, more threatening.
Church leaders must now focus on active shooter training as much as they focus on activating the members. Faith plans must be coupled with security plans.
Many say the good guys need to take action. But what action? No one can agree because every Twitter user thinks they know best.
So yes, for now, I pray. I pray every day. I pray for my family, friends and neighbors. I pray for people I pass on the street, for every wife who loses a husband to a shooter, for any mother who buries a child.
I pray for healing. I pray for answers. I pray my children can grow up and feel safe here.
Maybe privilege deluded me into thinking I once possessed that safety. After all, to defeat evil, we must first recognize it.
To quote a Kevin Spacey character, "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
Contact Sarah Whitman at sarahrothw[email protected]
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Christian School will host an outreach event Beer, Hymns and Christmas Carols from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at Beach Bar and Restaurant at Rocky Point, Tampa. Admission is free. Food and drink available for purchase. For more information, visit goodshepherd.org.
Oak Grove United Methodist Church, 2707 Waters Ave., will show the movie Miracles from Heaven at 3 p.m. Dec. 3. Event and refreshments are free. For more information, call (813) 935-4471.
The New Tampa Women's Connection will host a luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 21 at Tampa Palms Golf and Country Club, 5811 Tampa Palms Blvd. The annual fall fundraiser will include a Treasure Trove, a silent auction, a purse auction and a raffle. Cost is $20 at the door. Make a reservation by Nov. 16 at [email protected]