As I’m sure you’ve all seen by now, there was a mass shooting in my hometown on Friday.
I say hometown even though I don’t live there, and I never lived there. But if a place is its people, Aurora, Illinois is the city I call home. Some of the best friends I have ever made live in Aurora, and I spent years learning about the city while covering it for the local newspaper. I’ve been involved in many community events and watched as the nascent arts scene there started blossoming.
It’s a great old city, and it’s hurting this week. On Friday afternoon, a man who had just been fired from his job at the Henry Pratt Company drew a gun and started firing. He killed five people and injured many more, several of them brave members of the Aurora Police Department, before being brought down. I followed the events on social media, knowing that I have friends who live near there, friends who work near there, friends whose kids go to school across the street from there, and friends who are first responders and could have been sent to the scene.
Everyone I know is safe, thank God. I have a lot of misgivings about social media, but I love that it allows for people to immediately let friends and family know they are unharmed. But the city is in pain. I’m writing this on Sunday, before attending a pair of prayer vigils, and I’m sure there will be tears and mourning for the five souls taken from us, and for their friends and family.
It’s important, I think, to put faces to a tragedy like this, so I’m going to name them: Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner. The last one in the list, Trevor, was a 21-year-old student at Northern Illinois University starting the first day of his internship with Henry Pratt’s HR department. I’m sure he thought it was a great opportunity for him, and it should have been. It’s horrible.
I also think it’s important to note the fantastic response of the Aurora Police Department and the Aurora Fire Department, as well as all of those who offered mutual aid. These are people who ran toward the sound of gunfire, who put themselves in harm’s way to save others. It’s a job I certainly don’t have the fortitude to do, and I’m grateful that we have such brave men and women who do it.
As I said, my hometown is hurting, and I grieve for it. One of the only ways I know how to face grief and come through it stronger is through music. So given my heavy heart this week, I thought I would share some of the songs that I have often found comfort in. These are songs of loss and sadness and resilience, and if this isn’t what you need right now – if you instead need songs of anger or songs that wrap you in darkness – I understand completely. These might not be the songs that help everyone.
But they’re the ones that help me.
Start with the most straightforward. I have always found this to be a powerful piece, meant as a musical shoulder for those who have lost loved ones. It is, in form, exactly what it hopes to convey: sadness giving way to peace and, eventually, joy again. Life carries on and on again…
This is my favorite song about grief. Inspired by the 1994 sinking of the MS Estonia, which resulted in 852 lives lost, it is a gorgeous piece about moving to another place, and leaving people behind to remember you. No one leaves you when they live in your heart and mind.
I know many people will expect a different R.E.M. song here, but where “Everybody Hurts” has always seemed weightless to me, “Sweetness Follows” is a true journey of darkness and light. It’s about a seismic event tearing people apart, and the hard-won hope that things will get better. It’s these little things, they can pull you under, but sweetness follows.
If you’re like me, you need your songs of hope to brighten corners you didn’t know could be brightened. The usual sentiments crash against brick walls for me, and I need something like this beautiful anthem to getting up and facing each morning. Everything about this song makes my heart lighter. Each day I open up my eyes and it begins.
Of all of these, this is the one I keep coming back to. It’s specifically about the hopelessness of tragedy, of the emptiness that follows sudden loss, and it’s a beautiful reminder that love is the way through. My friend Robert Berman introduced me to this song, and I’m eternally grateful. There is evil cast around us, but it’s love that wrote the play.
This isn’t exhaustive, of course – there are dozens, hundreds more, and I would be interested to hear the ones that comfort you. Sharing that comfort is one of the best things we can do in times like these, where healing will take time and patience and grace. I’m thankful for those who share such comfort with me. My thoughts are with the friends and families of the victims, and with my hometown. In this darkness love will show the way.
Next week, Copeland and Peter Mulvey. Follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tm3am.
See you in line Tuesday morning.