Here in Louisiana, we often like to think of our state as a place apart from the rest of the world. There is comfort in that kind of attitude, since it gives us the feeling, however illusory, that we’re somehow insulated from the darker realities that govern life everywhere else on the planet.
But Thursday night’s mass shooting at a Lafayette movie theater reminded us that humanity’s most tragic pathologies can touch life in Louisiana, too. The shooting left nine patrons injured and three people dead, including the alleged gunman, who apparently killed himself. That the shooting should occur in Lafayette, a city known for its carefree Cajun culture and generous community spirit, is especially heartbreaking.
The shock we all feel at what happened is a rightful expression that this simply isn’t how people are supposed to treat each other. Our hurt tells us that we cannot — no, we will not — accept this loss as routine, though violence across America this summer has become distressingly familiar. The shootings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, at a recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and now a movie theater in Lafayette have shaken America, but also strengthened its resolve.
The Lafayette shooting vividly demonstrated that Louisiana is a part of, not apart from, the rest of the country and the world. Condolences, good wishes and offers of assistance for the shooting victims and their families have poured in from around the globe. We are grateful for that flood of kindness, and we know that it will be a source of great comfort to the grieving.
Thursday’s tragedy will renew longstanding public policy debates about the regulation of guns, whether we do enough to treat the mentally ill and whether anything else might be done to prevent such shootings. Such debates are necessary. But now is a time for grieving, not grandstanding; for somber reflection, not heated rhetoric. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families most deeply affected by this terrible crime. We dearly love Lafayette, and our hearts go out to this special city.
Events like Thursday’s shooting can make the world seem irreparably broken, but the civic response to the tragedy underscored how strong we are. We salute the first responders who acted so quickly and bravely. Without their courage and skill, this tragedy, as awful as it was, could have been even worse.
We know that law enforcement officials at the local, state and national levels will work tirelessly to find as many answers as possible about what happened Thursday night. We will never fully know, of course, just why anyone would do something so terrible. But we refuse to let this evil define Lafayette or Louisiana.
Lafayette is a good place where something terrible happened, and the goodness will prevail.