Vestavia Hills

You’d never know there was a mass shooting in Vestavia Hills last night.

I drove through Vestavia today. It was sunny. There was a decent lunch rush at Martin’s Barbecue Joint. There were roadside posters advertising the chamber of commerce’s upcoming “I Love America Night,” which will feature a picnic, a firework show, and a Baptist orchestra playing Sousa marches for the whole family.

Just another day in Birmingham.

I got my haircut in town. I asked the barber what he thought about the recent shooting. He stopped snipping and said grimly, “I guess this is just the world we live in now.”

I keep hearing that phrase. “This is the world we live in now.” Occasionally I hear variations of the theme. But it’s all the same. People are basically saying, “Hey, this world sucks, but you can’t change it, so get used to it.”

I went to a lunch spot in Vestavia today, and I asked the waitress what she thought about the shooting. She said, “I guess this is our life now.”

I went to the bank. I asked the clerk for his reaction to the shooting. He said, “This is the new normal, I guess.”

Last night, at a potluck at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a 71-year-old gunman opened fire and killed three. They say the gunman was stand-offish at supper. Church members asked him to sit with them, but he refused. People were kind to him. Friendly. Hospitable.

Whereupon he removed a pistol and started pulling the trigger. He killed Walter Rainey, 84, of Irondale; Jane Pounds, 84, of Hoover; and Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham.

This happened 8 miles from my front porch.

In other words, this doesn’t feel like national news to me. Not now. This happened to my people. This happened at a church where I have attended.

I called several friends who live in Vestavia Hills to see how they were holding up. Their reactions surprised me. I expected them to blow it off. I expected them to tell me they were doing fine. But they’re not fine.

“This was way too close to home. Last night, I could see blue lights from my backyard, from all the cop cars nearby. There were FBI people walking in my neighborhood. Not something I ever thought I’d see. I have kids, man.”

Another friend said: “I coulda swore I heard gunshots last night, but I don’t know, probably not. Maybe that’s just my imagination going wild. But I can’t believe mass shootings are now in our own town.” Then she added: “Maybe this is just the way the world is now.”

The scary thing is, this shooting occurred at a potluck, of all places.

Today, I drove past Saint Stephen’s, nestled in the trees. I glanced at the fellowship hall, tucked behind the police-barricade tape, and I remembered a potluck I attended there once. It was a great night.

I remember I sat in a folding chair and ate ginormous portions of pulled pork until my feet swelled. I inhaled pound cake. I guzzled sugary tea. I remember laughing a lot. I remember rubbing elbows with the clergy.

I remember watching a church member play guitar onstage to entertain children. I saw little girls dancing the Mashed Potato to “Brown Eyed Girl.” I saw people smiling. All in all, it was a nice evening spent alongside happy, moderately inebriated Episcopalians.

Never once during that evening did I think a gunman would come barging into the fellowship hall ready to lay me down. Not once did my mind consider that innocent children could be struck down amidst their reverie. Never did I think people would die while they were eating pretzel salad and squash casserole. My mind never even went there.

But it’s going there now.

I called an old friend, an Episcopalian priest, to see what he had to say about it. His name is Father Peter, and he said this:

“It’s a hard day for me to preach hope. But that’s the only answer I really have. Hope. Because in darkness, like the darkness of this age, it’s damned hard not to want to let my rage and frustration answer more loudly than my hope.”

He’s right, you know. It really is hard.

But hey, that’s just the world we live in.


  1. Wendy Hermance - June 18, 2022 7:50 am

    Yesterday a friend in Charleston posted on Facebook that she was followed by a car and scared. Another of her friends wrote. “Lets go shopping and get you a gun.” To my surprise my friend then made plans with the other person to go buy a gun. I responded, Is it possible the car following was just goofy kids playing a prank, someone who has seen too many RomComs and fell in love with you at first sight, or wanted to tell you you shut your jacket in the door and it was dragging on the street, or for any reason the “solution” to one unexplained incident was not to buy s gun and plan of shooting someone?” She did not respond. The gun salesman ignored any innocuous scenario and told me to read the Second Amendment. The US Congress refuses to fix healthcare, collapsing bridges, decaying education but increases money to arms dealers to slaughter foreign children while 40% of American children know hunger. I left the US in 2017 for the world’s third safest country. My new book, “Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat” details my experiences, and ultimately affirms all those who find the US no longer livable for one reason or another. (For me, one reason was a $6 tomato. Here it costs 60 cents.)

  2. Ed (Bear) - June 18, 2022 8:06 am

    Nicely put Sean. I believe everyone that is fortunate enough to have a right mind wants to make things better for others. But the many lost sick are not easily reached. Society doesn’t deal very well with the mentally disordered. Most are ignored and pushed behind the stigma of a social curtain.

    More than anything else, the mentally ill need hope, but we give them shame instead. Hope comes from being listened to.

    It is hard to have Hope if your loved ones were just violently taken away from you, but hope is what heals us.

    • phil - June 18, 2022 1:56 pm

      Thanks for this comment, Bear. I share your sentiments. Collectively, we are letting people down. I don’t believe this shooter was evil, greedy, or vengeful. He was ill, scared, and over the edge. We really need to embrace those leaders who support the battle of mental illness.

  3. Leigh Amiot - June 18, 2022 9:52 am

    A quick Google search reveals a troubled history for the shooter, Robert Findlay Smith, which, of course, is not surprising. I met a woman here in Valdosta, GA whose government job was emptying area asylums of its residents, the reason–their rights. I quipped to her that one day she’d work herself out of a job.

    We see the results of such efforts all around the country. In recent months I’ve seen large homeless camps in Denver, Colorado and Jacksonville, Florida. Not just a tent or two, but lines of them just off the highway. There are folks who cannot function in society and while some deliberately choose homelessness, many have lost a needed safety net.

    I suspect Smith, given his history of disturbing behavior, was among those who would have been better served in our society by being housed where he could have proper oversight. Three are dead now because of this terrible and deliberate “oversight”. His rights should never have superseded his victims’.

  4. Ann Thompson - June 18, 2022 10:13 am

    Hope. I liken it to a gardener that plants a little brown daffodil bulb in the ground in the fall. Or a tulip, crocus, muscari, snowdrop….all small little things that don’t look like much. They spend the long cold winter underground. Spring comes and they emerge, form, bud and blossom. A miracle of nature. Bring joy. That’s one of the reasons I garden. That’s the world I live in. Soon it will be that tomato that started out as a seed in March. Given a safe warm place, regular watering, a lotta love and some food it has grown into a bushy plant with yellow flowers being pollinated by the bees.

  5. janet - June 18, 2022 10:35 am

    I am going to a funeral today. Not once, should I think about being gunned down, before. But, now, I will. It shouldn’t be this way. But, it is. And it’s sad.

  6. Anne Arthur - June 18, 2022 10:58 am

    I am at a loss how cruel our world has become. Or, was it always cruel but now the media bring us closer to each horror event? No, it’s happening in our backyards and we seem helpless to counteract. Yet we all possess the arms of kindness and compassion which could prevent number of senseless acts of evil if we’d just behave like our brother’s keeper. It’s a good thing that you write so often about the good in this world, Sean. Otherwise, we might lose hope.

  7. Kathy - June 18, 2022 11:19 am

    You know who didn’t say “that’s just the world we live in?” Rosa Parks. Susan B. Anthony. Martin Luther King Jr. Jonas Salk. “That’s just the world we live in” is the opposite of hope. Hope means individual people can make things better—not just for themselves, but for others who they will never meet.

    • Richard Baker - June 18, 2022 1:56 pm

      Love your response. You give a “ reason” for hope. We have a reason for hope because Christ Jesus also did something while he walked this sad earth

  8. Te - June 18, 2022 11:21 am

    I wholeheartedly disagree – this is not our world. This is the world that psychopaths want us to live in. People are doing everything they can to prevent this great nation from going there. There have always been crazies. KKK, self-righteous bigots, vengeful, greedy, egotistical and arrogant morons who use violence to solve their problems or assuage their inadequacies. I grew up in a house where violence was the norm, but it made me a fighter. Every woman I know from friends to my granddaughter were raised to be fighters, carry a gun, and know how to use it, but that’s the South. Always has been.

  9. Audra S Isenhour - June 18, 2022 11:31 am

    I own a handgun. I trained and have a concealed carry permit. I am 75 and a widow living in a rapidly changing neighborhood and my handgun is with me where ever I go. I do not live in fear, and enjoy chatting with strangers and neighbors, but I also know this world has lost it’s moral compass and I will defend myself from the drug dealers who live up the street and if possible prevent harm to someone else being attacked. Did I mention I am trained? I have a great sense of humor, make quilts, tend flower beds, and love my great-grandkids. I Love my country, read my Bible, pray daily, and my hope is in Jesus Christ. And a good aim if forced. I know this probably won’t be posted, but here goes…

    • J - June 18, 2022 2:21 pm

      Audra, I’m with you. I hope that your loving nature is protection from the hate, but if not, I pray that you are not only accurate, but fast.

  10. Carol - June 18, 2022 11:34 am

    Sean, it will continue to be “just the world we live in” until we get our members of Congress to pass gun safety laws. There are so many ways to lessen some — not all, but some — of these shootings and it’s our job to make it happen.

  11. Jim Smith - June 18, 2022 11:35 am

    This certainly seems to be the world we live in now but what in the hell got us here????

    • Wendy Hermance - June 18, 2022 12:06 pm

      I call it corporate greed, and the electoral and lobbying power it bought. I literally felt like my government was trying to kill me, then would also drain profit for the few from my dead body. It was a terrible feeling, so I left.

  12. Melissa Armstrong - June 18, 2022 11:51 am

    I’ve caught myself saying a similar sounding phrase lately, especially to my children and grandchildren. I’m saddened they will never experience the wonderful childhood I had. I’ve made sure that my family knows that if they were to die today they know where they will spend eternity. It will be a gazillion times better than my childhood was. Plus, Jesus will be there!

  13. Nancy - June 18, 2022 11:58 am

    I read Roman’s 13 just before reading your post. Paul says in v.11, ” And do this, understanding the present time…v 13 So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light..” His light is my hope. Thank you, Sean, for your food for thought this morning.

  14. Liz Bishop - June 18, 2022 12:15 pm

    My husband and I are longtime members of St. Stephen’s. Losing our friends in a senseless shooting is devasting. God help us all🙏

  15. Sean of the South: Vestavia Hills | The Trussville Tribune - June 18, 2022 12:24 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  16. Rhobda6 - June 18, 2022 12:57 pm

    This is the kind of man that went into saloons shooting for no reason in the wild west. Only now we give them a trial instead of instant punishment

  17. Debbie Schmidt - June 18, 2022 1:17 pm

    There is so much that needs to change…in government….in homes….in healthcare….in hearts… media and social media and it is overwhelming. So…..I will vote, I will teach my grandchildren about Christ, I will work to keep my heart loving and kind, I will try my best to only say only positive and encouraging things, I will not be afraid and I will live my life. I have read the end of the book and God’s side wins so……”This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine”. Also, I will read “Sean of the South” every day. 😘

  18. Mary - June 18, 2022 1:20 pm

    This really hurts that our, not our, God’s world, has come to. May we return to our loving God, Worship him whatever the way we see. He is a loving father that care for all His people.

  19. Dorotha (Dot) Coltrane - June 18, 2022 1:53 pm

    We live about the same distance as you do from Cabaha Heights. And we are horrified that people were shot while attending a pot luck dinner inside a church. All of the fatalities were in my age group. This may be “the world we live in,” but if that’s true, we have to change that world. We have to fight for gun safety, vote for people who are kind and care about our children and grandchildren’s future, and never give up hope. We can’t just be horrified and accept a divided and violent world.

  20. Suellen - June 18, 2022 2:07 pm

    We’ve been inventing new ways to kill each other since the beginning of time but my hope is not of this world therefore I don’t walk around in fear. I’m situationally aware but I won’t stop participating in all the good things in life and I refuse to cower in my house. So many people are lost and hurting, empty. Too bad we live in a society today that thinks they don’t need God.

  21. phil - June 18, 2022 2:09 pm

    Mental illness is real. People suffer with it, and people suffer because of it.

  22. Ruth Gunter Mitchell - June 18, 2022 2:33 pm

    Imagine the America the slaves lived in. They didn’t give up hope but turned to righteous leaders to guide them out of darkness. We must insist on the same leadership today.

    (“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.”
    Proverbs 29:2)

  23. Judy - June 18, 2022 2:36 pm

    What a sad world we live in! What a sad day. Also sad that we will do nothing to stop the hate, the evil, the violence that is taking our country away. God be merciful

  24. David Britnell - June 18, 2022 2:46 pm

    Lord I pray it’s not just the new norm!

  25. Marilyn - June 18, 2022 3:01 pm

    Let’s fall on our knees and plead for ourselves and our little ones and those around us.

    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

    • Debbie g - June 18, 2022 11:23 pm


  26. Donna from Iowa - June 18, 2022 3:19 pm

    Guess we best enjoy every moment we live and pray for more sensible living in the near future!

  27. Brien Crothers - June 18, 2022 3:31 pm

    I know no other way to articulate my feelings on this matter than to write a tale:

    Charley bit into a tomato like he was taking his last-ever bite. Sunlight shimmered off the garden’s green leaves, red fruit, and yellow zucchini blossoms. He savored the juices—those not running down his chin and neck—and lifted his face to the sky. Eyes closed, he focused on the sun’s ray warming his face, the silky tomato flesh in his mouth, and the past. The distant past, during his formative years growing up in the Appalachians. Those days before conflict, turmoil, and politics.
    Politics. Should have listened to Mother, thought Charley. “It’s in the word, son,” she’d said. “Poly—many, and ticks—the blood sucking kind.” Should have listened to Mother.
    “Pondering your retirement years, Charley?” said Dean Layman as he strode into the garden.
    Charley grimaced at the intrusion. He wiped his chin with a sleeve and reluctantly opened his eyes to see his brother-in-law and erstwhile campaign manager. “Something like that, Dean.”
    “More like you’re wondering why we ever got into politics all this years ago.” Dean saw the look of surprise on Charley’s face. “That’s it, isn’t it?”
    “You always did know what I was thinking.”
    “So did Irma. I never knew a person who could read minds better than her,” said Dean, a sad pall covering his normally ruddy features.
    “Your sister was special; I knew so the first day I met her,” said Charley reflectively.
    “You had forty-four good years together, brother.”
    “Damn good years.”
    Charley took a seat at a tiny, steel bistro table and motioned for Dean to do the same. A heaping basket full of glistening, ready-to-burst tomatoes filled the center of the table.
    Dean took one, buffed it needlessly on his sleeve and bit into it, slurping a flood of God’s own nectar. He hummed in appreciation and swallowed. “You and Irma always grow the best damned fruit south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississip’,” said Dean.
    “Could use some salt. But I haven’t been able to find the shaker since Irma passed,” said Charley as he slumped in his seat.
    After a moment, he sat up straight and said, “She’d bust my chops for slouching. Still, I wish she were here. She loved a good t’matter.”
    “So, those retirement years, what’re you gonna do, Charley?”
    “I’m going to sit right here, watch Irma’s garden grow, and sip on good whiskey.”
    “And think about the past?” said Dean. “Remember all the good you got done?”
    Charley shook his head, lowered his gaze.
    “They were fifteen years in congress and twenty more in the senate. You done good. In all those years, you done good.”
    “We did some good things, you and me and Irma. The kids, too. But we didn’t do enough. People are still dying, still being shot down, their lives stolen from them—many of them before they’ve had much of a start,” said Charley as he slowly lifted his gaze to his friend’s.
    “You did all you could, brother. No one has ever been more passionate for a cause, not even my sister,” said Dean.
    Charley canted his head to one side, considering his brother-in-law more seriously. “You saw the news, didn’t you? Before you came over. That’s why you’re here before cocktail hour.”
    Dean lowered his gaze, scanning the ground. “I just came over for a tomato and to help you find that saltshaker.”
    “Bull. You knew I’d be brooding about those twelve children and their teachers.”
    Dean looked up, not surprised his friend was a mind reader, too.
    “I should have done more,” said Charley. “Something. Anything to stop the madness.”
    “Greed is more powerful than empathy, Senator.”
    “Senator, pfft!” shouted the retired politician. “A useless lump, who suckled from the taxpayers, yet couldn’t save them from the gun manufacturers and their smarmy lapdog, Pierre LaWayne.”
    “What good is brooding about it going to do?”
    “Something must be done. There must be a way to stop this, stop the slaughter.”
    “You mean more than ‘Thoughts and prayers?’”
    “Damn you, Dean!” said Charley as he shot from his chair.
    “Hey, I’m trying to help,” said Dean as he raised his hands in defense.
    “You see that, brother? You threw up your hands to protect yourself. They won’t stop .223 bullets rapid fired from an assault rifle. Especially when they are a nine-year-old’s palms. Cut down, bloodied, chewed up—dead.”
    “Greed…” mused Dean.
    “We must do something, a different thing.”
    “Short of turning those firearms on the bastards who take LaWayne’s millions?” said Dean.
    “Yeah, short of that, but just,” said Charley.

  28. Beryl - June 18, 2022 4:18 pm

    I read this a couple of days ago. Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice, what can adequately be explained by stupidity.” One of the greatest freedoms we, as humans, have been given is choice. We are always at choice. The Beloved is only GOOD. It has NO responsibility in choices which harm others. Those choices are entirely on us. Which means there is no “evil”. This does not mean that, “I guess this is just the way our world is now” is a choice one can make without consequences, either. Only you will know what those consequences will be. Thoughts become actions. Every single thing, event, invention, etc., began with a thought. Here’s a thought, Q: “How shall we treat others?” A: “There are no others.” We are ALL connected to everything and everyONE by the Creator of ALL. Guard your thoughts lest you have unintended consequences.

  29. LIN ARNOLD - June 18, 2022 4:25 pm

    Complacency is NOT the answer! I’m not sure how to stop this heart wrenching hatred and death, but I truly believe that if the government … local, state & national … doesn’t do something, us law abiding citizens will rise up! And not just at the voting poles! I also truly believe that gun control isn’t the answer either. I daresay the vast majority of the gun wielding murderers that are terrorizing this country are not LEGAL gun owners. I’m sad to admit that I’m afraid to go see my daughter, son-in-law & granddaughter because it requires driving through Atlanta!
    All I can say is “Jesus is coming! And, boy, is He pissed!!”

  30. William R Collins - June 18, 2022 4:28 pm

    Take a weapons class given by an ex-military or police officer. Study and understand the laws regarding firearms wherever you travel. Apply and receive your concealed carry permit! Purchase a firearm that meets your needs and ability. Learn how to use this weapon properly and safely. Carry that weapon with you ALWAYS and be prepared to protect those you LOVE! I do not condone violence of any kind, but I will not hesitate to keep my family safe!

  31. Sandy Laster - June 18, 2022 4:33 pm

    Let us not settle for the evil world. Let us work together for a better world.

  32. Cathy M - June 18, 2022 4:40 pm

    I am a resident of Vestavia and two of my adult children and their families belong to St Stephens. I love this church. Two or more of my grandchildren were baptized there. The service on Saturday evening before Easter is my favorite. I have never sat in that sanctuary and not felt surrounded by the Holy Spirit. Sweetest congregation ever. People from all walks of life. There is a place for everyone at this church. One of my closest friends lives directly across the street from the parking lot in a row of cottages. I cannot wrap my head around what took place there this week on a normal nite at a potluck supper for boomers. All three of the victims were loved by everyone. My daughter is a member and was scheduled to read scripture tommorrow morning . Instead of reading she and five of her church friends are making green bows to sell to everyone who wants to contribute to a fund for the families to memorize their loved ones. Green is their church color . She was on Fox News last nite to tell this story. She was inconsolable the night it happened and felt the need to do something constructive with her grief. She said in the interview that St Stephens is like God’s tree house and that is a great description. The sanctuary has glass windows on three sides and ther are beautiful trees and greenery all around. Please pray for this congregation and by the way, Natalie Anderson, I have never been more proud of you. Dad and I must have done something right💙🙏🏻

  33. Diane - June 18, 2022 4:55 pm

    So tragically true. My heart breaks daily.

  34. Peggy M. Windham - June 18, 2022 4:59 pm

    So sorry for the families of those so needlessly slain! 🙏🙏

  35. Shannon - June 18, 2022 5:05 pm

    1 mile in Cahaba Heights my house…I cry so much for neighbors gone, friends sick, and now especially those lost by someone that doesn’t care…..Why ?

  36. Carol Poole - June 18, 2022 5:07 pm

    You are an AMAZING writer.
    You know how to touch our souls.
    Thank you for making us laugh and cry.
    God Bless You!

    • Amanda McKinley - June 18, 2022 5:29 pm

      Totally agree!!!

  37. Amanda McKinley - June 18, 2022 5:29 pm

    I struggle with this SO much, Sean. How do we not get complacent and think: this is the world we live in? And how do we not feel helpless? Sure, there are always things that can be changed in ‘the government’ but I feel like that is intangible for me, not something I can effectively control. What I can control is how I order my life. Am I reaching out to isolated neighbors? I am engaging in life-giving activities rather than numbing out on social media or TV? Am I actively teaching (and modeling) to my kids how to love those who may seem ‘unlovable’ – the awkward autistic kid that always blurts out I appropriate things in class, the hyperactive ADHD girl who can’t sit still and makes repeated annoying sounds with her mouth. Am I joining in the voices of anger or actively praying, serving, and loving those around me. Am I putting my needs above my husband, my kids, my home and growing bitter, lazy and selfish? There is just so much I see in my own heart that must constantly need tending to. I get how our society has gotten here. Left unchecked, with little community, awareness of needs beyond our own, without hope in the divine, sadly, I get how we got here. All I know is that I can do my part, just like you are, Sean, to keep sowing seeds of hope, in my little circle of influence – my family, my neighborhood, my school and church community. It feels insignificant, but It’s not. I have to believe that. Thank you, Sean, for bringing us together in conversation over these things. We can differ on our solutions and opinions, but I am thankful you have provided a safe space for conversation. My heart goes out to the Vestavia victims and their families. And I wonder, perhaps, if they’re looking down upon all of us right now and interceding on our behalf.

  38. Robin Lazarus - June 18, 2022 6:00 pm

    This is my neighborhood too.
    The church such is such an integral
    Part of the community
    So heartbreaking

  39. Judy Warmath - June 18, 2022 6:11 pm

    We all need to let our heartfelt frustration be heard at the highest level!
    Be pro-active!

  40. Janice - June 18, 2022 6:25 pm

    Such a tragedy! So close to home that it really hits close to the heart. Not that I don’t ache whenever or where ever this sort of thing happens but you never think it will get this close … until suddenly it does. My only answer is prayer and putting my hope and trust in God. Turning back to Him is the only way to escape this mess of a world we now live in.

  41. Chasity Davis Ritter - June 18, 2022 6:30 pm

    Sometimes all we can do is hold on to hope and pray for the Rapture.

  42. Steve McCaleb - June 18, 2022 6:33 pm

    This is the world we’ve created. No prayer in schools,at athletic events, no pledge of allegiance, teachers who teach your children that God is “an imaginary friend” for grown ups, parents that fight like tv wrestlers, parents that teach no loyalty, no respect for others, perversion instead of religion and war has been declared on God by people in positions of power. And now you tell me that that people have gone crazy and are killing their fellow man in the streets? SUPRISE SUPRISE!!! I’m shocked aren’t you? If you never read/listen to anything else the rest of your life, please go on YouTube and listen to a speech given by Paul Harvey in 1965. It’s called “ If I Were The Devil”. All the prophets weren’t in the Old Testament. Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me there’s gambling in River City….

  43. Linda Moon - June 18, 2022 6:43 pm

    I’ve spent many days in Birmingham and Vestavia. My heart breaks now while reading the names of the church members because the unthinkable happened at their church. Someone once said He overcomes this troublesome world…the world we live in. And yes, I know how hard it is.

  44. concerned but filled with hope - June 18, 2022 7:07 pm

    It is difficult to imagine why things like this happen and I think that is because most of us do not think of violence as an answer. We have let the ‘few’ dominate our thinking and our lives. People do not know how to handle problems anymore and this is a direct result of lawlessness. It grieves me that our wonderful country has made God illegal. I also think the lack of care for psychological disorders in people has contributed to the decay of the value of life. America used to treat people with Psych problems in Sanitariums but that is illegal now. You can only commit someone for Psych evaluation for 3 days without their permission. (Baker Act)
    We must not give up and accept that this is the world we live in now. We must unite in prayer and keep hope alive.
    You wrote a thoughtful, heartfelt article about this tragedy. This sort of thing has far-reaching ramifications and hurts us all.
    Pray for peace in America.

  45. Penn Wells - June 18, 2022 7:10 pm

    Never, ever quit. And never, ever forget the Dark Money that supports all this fear, anger and hatred. It comes from a lot of sources, but I would start with the Kochs in Kansas.

  46. Mize Rosemary - June 18, 2022 7:45 pm

    I don’t want this to be the world we live in now🥲but hope is eternal for better times Thank you for your words

  47. Karen - June 18, 2022 9:51 pm

    Sean, I agree. I know when a young student needs psychological services or other interventions, the parents can say no. Adults with mental illness can decide not to take their meds and can say no to help. Just this week a woman legally purchased a gun and then gave it to her boyfriend who is a felon. He murdered someone. I am not sure how to change this. I do know we can never give up as a people.

  48. ajacksonwood - June 18, 2022 10:06 pm

    I understand why people say that – “it’s just the world now.” But I have to hold to the belief that it doesn’t have to be the world we live in forever. My work is with women and children who have been traumatized by violence – not from a stranger, but from someone who is supposed to love them. My staff and I work hard to show them that love shouldn’t hurt. And I guess, in my heart of hearts, I have to believe that extends to the love between strangers too – love for our fellow humans. Right now people are mad, both angry mad and crazy mad. But surely we can reach a place of hope for something better for each other; something like better mental health care, some financial equity, and some common sense when it comes to firearm access. No, I’m not suggesting we eliminate the second amendment, but there must surely be some room for reasoning together to find a way to reshape the narrative on gun control. Anyway, I wish I could hear the message of your friend, Fr. Peter. Because I refuse to accept that this is the world we have to remain in… surely we are all called to hope and actively work for something better.

  49. Nancy Lee - June 18, 2022 10:47 pm

    I am so sorry for you and your community to go through this. Our small Norman Rockwell-type village of Mohawk, NY, had a shooting at a Barbershop, then at a Jiffy Lube in the next town over in 2013. We will never forget the school lock-downs, the armored car driving through the streets. . . but we will also never forget how the local police rallied together, and the police dog that sacrificed his life for our little community, and the prayer vigils. It is surreal. My prayers go out to your community.

  50. Melanie Johnston Levy, LPC - June 18, 2022 11:13 pm

    I have not one, but two sons who are pastors in 2 different states. I think about this constantly…even though I know they have security it still terrifies this momma’s heart. Father help us!!

  51. Pilgrim51 - June 18, 2022 11:19 pm

    My 91 yo mother lives in Irondale.
    Too close to home.

  52. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 19, 2022 12:11 am


  53. Janice Meyer - June 19, 2022 2:08 am

    My prayers are with you all in Vestavia and, continue with Uvalde and Buffalo; there are surely too many places of violence and innocent deaths to name. May God have mercy.
    Tonight I especially lift up all at St. Stephens, Vestavia and, the Birmingham area. As one of the Episcopal priests quoted has said he will of course preach on ” hope”, difficult though it will be.
    Our faith as Christians, Episcopalians and all other denominations of Christianity share this one thing in common, hope; ” my hope is in the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
    In the grief support groups that I facilitate we spend the last concluding week of eight sessions on ” Hope, A Conversation”. We ponder in the midst of new, raw or prolonged grief the who,what, where, when and how’s and why’s of finding hope… often it is simply in the silence that we share.
    Afterwards, I offer this acronym for hope; to ponder and provide some day to day scaffolding along with prayer to journey through the days of fluid grief , the exhausting back and forth between shock, anger, denial, bargaining, trying to find acceptance :
    H….healthy healing
    O….. omnipotent optimism
    P….. Perseverance in peace
    E…. Endurance
    This is my prayer for each of you, the bereaved fragile hearts and lives now moving back and forth through and among the myriad challenges of your personal and community grief.
    Janice N. Meyer, MDiv, GC-C
    Board Certified Grief Counselor
    Summerville, SC

  54. Joann - June 19, 2022 3:28 am

    I refuse to accept that this must be the world we live in. I can’t bear to think this is the legacy we leave our children.

  55. Patricia Gibson - June 19, 2022 9:47 pm

    We need to be more aware of damaged people who need help and have a way to provide that help. Mental health facilities etc. The source has to be addressed.

  56. Sandra Nelsen - June 20, 2022 10:33 pm

    A little girl in Rigby Idaho, my home state, took a gun to school a year or so ago, and shot a few people. By some miracle, she didn’t kill anyone. I don’t even know how someone could do that. I know everyone talks about gun control, but what is wrong with people that they can be so numb to kill innocent people? I think we have to take care of our family, and also reach out to others as well, and hope they don’t decide to take a gun that day, and point it at us, and pull the trigger. I saw a video on Instagram it was a teacher talking about the end of the year. One phrase she shared with her students was not to add to or take away from the current population. That is something to think about.

  57. joseybell - June 21, 2022 3:24 pm

    It is a sad commentary on life when your church has deacons who “carry”, doors that are locked during service, and surveillance cameras throughout. Unlike the country churchs I grew up in, where the doors and windows were always open, and the only thing on anyone’s mind was listening to the preacher’s sermon and hoping it didn’t go on too long.


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