Charlotte

They were children, young adults, teachers, adjunct professors, and custodians. Some of the students might have been sitting in their classrooms daydreaming about the same things I once thought about in college.

I turned on my television. A reporter announced that there had been a school shooting at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte campus.

The TV showed scenes from a nightmare. Paramedics. People on stretchers. Police cruisers. The reporter said that two people were killed, four had been injured.

I didn’t mean to, but I started crying. It just sort of happened. You can’t control these things.

My dog began scratching the door to go outside. So I wiped my face and took her for a walk to help clear my head.

The sun was lowering, the sky was orange, the clouds were perfect. And I started thinking about the devastated students in Charlotte.

They were children, young adults, teachers, adjunct professors, and custodians. Some of the students might have been sitting in their classrooms daydreaming about the same things I once thought about in college.

Maybe they wondered if they would pass algebra. Maybe they wondered if the blonde in social science class ever noticed them. Perhaps they wondered why professors go to the trouble of printing syllabuses when nobody reads them.

Then. All hell broke loose.

The thought made me cry again. “Get a hold of yourself,” I whispered. “You’re turning into an old woman.”

That’s when I saw my neighbor’s children, playing in the street. A girl knelt on a skateboard, dressed as Batman. She had the mask and everything. Her brother was rolling her on the pavement.

The girl threw her arms outward, her cape waved behind her. They wore smiles bright enough to set the woods on fire.

I doubted that these children had any idea about what happened today in Charlotte. Thankfully.

The little girl whizzed by.

“I’m flying!” she screamed. “Can you see me?”

“I see you!” her brother shouted. “You’re doing it!”

It was sweet enough to bring a tear to a glass eye. I had to choke back more saltwater again.

God, what’s happening to me? I thought to myself.

I must be getting softer with age. Last night, for instance, I watched a John Wayne movie and I almost cried at the end. And when I realized I had run out of salted peanuts, I truly did cry.

After that, I watched a documentary about Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. I was a mess through the whole thing. And when the TV rolled footage from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, I completely lost it.

His words get me every time.

“I’m flying!” said the girl again. “Look!”

The sound of skateboard wheels on pavement is one of the five basic sounds of childhood, only to be outdone by the sound of baseball cards flapping against bicycle spokes.

They sped by. Her brother gave it the gas. He pushed her as fast as he could. Then he let her go.

The girl zipped out of his hands. She lost control of the skateboard. She screamed. She veered off the pavement, into the grass.

She rolled down a hill into a drainage ditch. The girl somersaulted, then splashed into a puddle of standing water, head first.

Her brother came running.

“Samantha!” he was shouting. “Oh my God! Are you okay?”

I followed after them. And we found her. Batman was lying on her back in a muddy ditch. She was staring at the sky.

And she was laughing.

She removed her plastic mask and howled so hard that her brother began to laugh, too. Then I laughed.

But I am not writing this because of all the laughing. I am writing because when the laughter ended, the boy crawled into the ditch and lifted his sister from the muddy water.

He hugged her and said, “You had me worried, I thought you were a goner.”

And they held each other. Two small children, on an average American residential street, somewhere in the world, holding each other.

He wiped mud from her face. He fixed her hair. Then he removed his T-shirt and gave it to her since her costume was covered in muck.

“Here,” he said. “You can have my shirt.”

They walked home together. She wore a clean white shirt. His torso was bare.

Today, a twenty-two-year-old opened fire on his classmates in Charlotte, and he killed some. It was horrific. And frightening. And it is enough to make this grown man cry.

Sometimes, I come close to losing faith in my fellow man. Too close, maybe.

But I have a dream. That one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.

And all flesh shall see it together.

Those aren’t my words, but they get me every time.

48 comments

  1. Cathi - May 1, 2019 9:35 am

    Bam. Right in the feels, Sean. You’ve done it again. As always, thanks for the smiles & the tears.

    Reply
  2. Susan Self - May 1, 2019 9:42 am

    It better be ok to cry like an old woman, because I do it all the time. I used to worry about it but decided it just proves I still care. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  3. Beki - May 1, 2019 9:51 am

    Lord have mercy Sean, you have me crying like an old woman at 4:51 am. And I love it. Thank you

    Reply
  4. Sherrie - May 1, 2019 10:29 am

    I love you Sean! Just that.

    Reply
  5. Kellu - May 1, 2019 10:30 am

    Dr. King’s words get me every time as well. I listen to that speech every so often, especially when the news gets so awful as it did again yesterday. Thank you for your words this morning.

    Reply
    • Allie - May 5, 2019 6:52 pm

      That is a fantastic idea. I’ll borrow it, if you please.

      Daddy and I listened to the news together my entire life. I still do, daily, but have to skip over so much of it. Thank you.

      Reply
  6. terry - May 1, 2019 10:34 am

    Love. Hope. Truth. These shall overcome. Forever…

    Reply
  7. Naomi - May 1, 2019 11:04 am

    My Rabbi, Seymore Atlas, was part of the civil rights movement in Montgomery and the other marches, including the one in DC. He taught Dr. King Hebrew and tried to unite the black and white pastors from all of the churches and synagogues in Montgomery to end the bus strike. For his efforts, he and his family were threatened and he had to carry a gun and eventually got fired from his position as the Rabbi at his synagogue in Montgomery.

    Reply
  8. Joretta parker - May 1, 2019 11:10 am

    This went straight to my heart and I cried too.I am so afraid the day will come when we will be afraid to step out side our door because we will not feel safe to walk our own streets with the innocense of a child.

    Reply
  9. Chrissie - May 1, 2019 11:10 am

    Thank You. Just plain Thank You.

    Reply
  10. D. Green - May 1, 2019 11:26 am

    What Chrissie in the post above this said: Thank you. Just plain thank you.

    Reply
  11. Toni Marshall - May 1, 2019 11:48 am

    Thank you Sean. It moved me beyond words and in these days and times, your unique ability to express your thoughts and feelings in a most kind hearted and graceful way, give ME hope in the human race each time I read your blog! Just plain thank you!

    Reply
  12. Suzanne Cahill - May 1, 2019 11:57 am

    This essay was a blessing a this morning. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  13. Jimmy Stewart - May 1, 2019 12:07 pm

    Thanks!!! Luke 3:5!

    Reply
  14. Karen - May 1, 2019 12:08 pm

    You bless us every day. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Megan - May 1, 2019 12:09 pm

    You have an amazing heart! Thank you for sharing the love every single day! Those words get me every time too!

    Reply
  16. Janet Williams - May 1, 2019 12:13 pm

    Oh yes! Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  17. Thomas Bole - May 1, 2019 12:16 pm

    And one day, maybe our popular culture will stop teaching our young impressionable kids that their problems can be powerfully addressed by shooting somebody. We are teaching this evil on TV and so-called entertainment, why are we surprised when the lessons are acted upon? Sad. We can do better by stopping the romanticization of guns as if they are a magic wand.

    Reply
  18. Joe Patterson - May 1, 2019 12:25 pm

    Thanks again

    Reply
  19. Carol Heidbreder - May 1, 2019 12:56 pm

    Another human tragedy. There are families and friends today still in shock and disbelief. Prayers go out to them. Dr. King was a shining star to light the way for all of us. His speeches still shake me and bring me to tears. So glad you addressed this. I’m a grandmother and I fear the future for my precious grands. We better spend more time in prayer than ever before! Again, you are right on! Many of us cry like old women. I dont worry about that any more as now I AM an old woman! Thank you for your words this morning!

    Reply
  20. Pat - May 1, 2019 1:02 pm

    One of your best today. Thank you.

    Reply
  21. Norma Norton - May 1, 2019 1:12 pm

    This one got to me also- my daughter attended UNC Charlotte several years ago

    Reply
  22. Bob Van Hook - May 1, 2019 1:21 pm

    Thanks for the cry-laugh this morning, Sean. You nailed a beautiful essay.

    Reply
  23. BJean - May 1, 2019 1:32 pm

    Poignant, encouraging, sad and happy. Thank you again, Sean.

    Reply
  24. Luis - May 1, 2019 1:35 pm

    Thanks. They get me every time, too.

    Reply
  25. 1palmer1Billy Blaylock - May 1, 2019 2:10 pm

    Blessings on you Sean. You make me laugh, smile and yes, tear up occasionally. I am a southerner who fled the south over 50 years ago. I returned to find it intact with its charm and evolved much more acceptable politically. After living on the west coast, time meanders and seasons change more here. I’ll rock on the new screened porch and enjoy your blog daily. Billy in North Mississippi.

    Reply
  26. Susan Swiderski - May 1, 2019 2:53 pm

    “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” MLK, Jr.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was an awesome orator, and his words traveled straight to the heart like an arrow.

    And so do yours. Thank you for being you. Never apologize or doubt yourself for having a sensitive caring heart.

    Reply
  27. Betty F. - May 1, 2019 2:55 pm

    This was one of your best observations ever- probably because it is so universal. We are all reeling again…

    Reply
  28. Edna B. - May 1, 2019 3:18 pm

    There’s a lot of sadness all around us. But I loved that story about the two children. This is how it was in my growing up days. Sad to hear one reader blaming it on guns. They are just things. It’s people who do the bad stuff. You have a wonderful day Sean, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  29. Kim - May 1, 2019 3:20 pm

    Your words painted such a vivid picture that chills wracked me as I cried and prayed that the Lord help us find our way back to better times and behaviors.

    Reply
  30. Karen Broome - May 1, 2019 3:22 pm

    As a Charlottean, your message was particularly poignant today. Thank You Sean.

    Reply
  31. J.J. - May 1, 2019 3:26 pm

    I echo the sentiments of you and the other commenters. You have genuinely touched hearts today.

    Reply
  32. Shelton A. - May 1, 2019 3:47 pm

    The Lord can’t stop this madness soon enough. Congress afraid to act out of fear. Such tragedies remind us all we’re only a heart beat away from our own end. Kids ought not be afraid to go to school and armed teachers aren’t the answer either. It’s people learning to see our commonalities more than our differences and keeping guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed people. Then, maybe we can stop crying every week.

    Reply
  33. Linda Moon - May 1, 2019 3:53 pm

    On this Wednesday morning, not the Sabbath, you took me to church again. And, turning into an old woman is not a bad thing – it beats the alternative. As I often tell my first cousin when we share family stories, “Grow Old or Die Young.”

    Reply
  34. TonyaD - May 1, 2019 3:56 pm

    My heqrt. I cried, too. It was all of babies on that campus. All parents stopping in their tracks as they heard the news. Written from the heart and so sadly, beautifully true.

    Reply
  35. Ann - May 1, 2019 4:18 pm

    Yes. Always yes.

    Reply
  36. Phillip Saunders. - May 1, 2019 4:31 pm

    Beautiful! Sad and beautiful at the same time. The man who doesn’t have tears in his eyes at the end of Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows, and yes, even some of those John Wayne movies – well, I just wonder about him. When we see children loving one another, we have to know there is still hope in this old world, even with all its tragedies.

    Reply
  37. Wayne Gordon - May 1, 2019 5:15 pm

    Thanks for the Charlotte column. We were sitting in an Olive Garden in Indiana and the news beeped in my phone. You see we have a grandson that is a senior at UNCC. A lump
    Can’t in my throat- I texted to see where he was- the response came 10 mins later-he wa safe-i cried.

    Reply
  38. Suzanne Wright - May 1, 2019 5:29 pm

    Love you, Sean. Love your good heart. Thank the Lord for people like you and that you write what you feel, feel what you write & share it with us! You see? We can have hope along with our “dream”. Thank you!

    Reply
  39. Jeanne but - May 1, 2019 5:48 pm

    So very sad and happy. I dream about the same things. But I’m 74 and am probably not going to see a good happy world before I die. I thank God every day I grew up when I did, and I worry about my grandkids. Love you Sean

    Reply
  40. Debbie - May 1, 2019 8:19 pm

    It made me cry, too. So did your words. Thank you for sharing your heart, Sean!

    Reply
  41. Jack Darnell - May 1, 2019 8:59 pm

    We are about 15 miles from the campus. Two Grandsons graduated with honors there. It sure makes one think. YOu did good, I was touched by the read. some kids can handle the shock, others it will take time, some never. Terrible thing, but good thing is, it could have been worse, glad it wasn’t…
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  42. Lynne - May 1, 2019 9:06 pm

    Just damn, dude. You get me every time. BS- that is, before Shawn- I had not shed a tear in years, but you somehow get through this crusty, old, way-too-cynical heart. And I’m so glad you do. Love you and what you do. Thanks for having the courage to do life differently, because you make all of us better for it.

    Reply
  43. Lisa Lewis - May 2, 2019 12:04 am

    I look forward to your essays everyday. I don’t understand how we as a society have become so dark but I appreciate your little light every day.

    Reply
  44. Ann Marie Bouchet - May 2, 2019 1:48 am

    Sean, you get me everytime…..I cry, too. Love you

    Reply
  45. Sandra Smith - May 2, 2019 12:11 pm

    Me too, Sean !
    😢💔🙏❤

    Reply
  46. Deloris Salter - May 2, 2019 1:26 pm

    Love your writings!! I cried, too, Sean! And I pray every day for our country.

    Reply
  47. Robert Chiles - May 3, 2019 1:27 am

    You write with such eloquence, compassion and truth. We are drowning in a sea of guns and violence and hatred. Keep shining light on love and grace.

    Reply

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