HOUSTON, TX - JULY 5: East Baton Rouge Deputy Nick Tullier and fiancŽ, Danielle McNicoll at TIRR Memorial Hermann on July 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey For The Advocate)

Bob Levey

One year ago, on Sunday, July 17, 2016 a troubled Missouri gunman shot six Baton Rouge law enforcement officers, killing three of them.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brad Garafola and Baton Rouge police officers Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald died that day in the line of duty. Deputy Nick Tullier, who was among the injured lawmen who survived, was hurt so badly that he’s spent much of the past year struggling to recover at a Houston rehabilitation facility.

To mark the anniversary date of the shooting so clearly gives us the illusion that the horror was confined to one day, though no tragedy ever works that way. The pain of what we lost still endures 12 months later, and the absences it created will be felt forever.

But there’s another reason that last summer’s shooting doesn’t register in civic memory as a single event on a July Sunday. The assault unfolded within a broader pattern of pain and anxiety that defined one of the most troubling seasons in south Louisiana’s history.

The July 5, 2016, death of an armed black man, Alton Sterling, outside a Baton Rouge convenience store after a struggle with police sparked racial tensions, along with protests here and across the nation. At one of those protests in Dallas, a disturbed gunman killed five police officers and injured nine others. The shooting of police in Baton Rouge also grew from a gunman’s sick revenge fantasy inspired by Sterling’s death.

A month after the police deaths in Baton Rouge, an epic flood swept through the region, exponentially compounding the loss of a community still wracked by grief.

In our despair, as the people of Louisiana always do, we turned to each other for strength. In doing so, we rediscovered what we took to heart after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and every other tragedy — natural or man-made — that has touched our state since its inception.

They are simple but profound truths, as old as Scripture, a durable antidote to the cynicism of the times. What we learned again last summer is that we’re stronger together than when we stand alone, that every bad act is answered by a thousand kindnesses — that beneath our differences, we’re all brothers and sisters in a suffering world.

Those comforts were close at hand again this summer, as another tormented gunman opened fire at a congressional ball practice, seriously wounding Louisiana’s House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Today we mark the memory of those we lost last summer and pray for the healing of those still marked by physical pain and emotional scars.

Renewing the unity we found last summer is the best way to honor the fallen and answer the evil that took them away, much too soon.