When a criminal drove an SUV into a crowd of people attending a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin last week, the nation was aghast at yet another senseless act of violence. The incident, which resulted in six deaths and over 60 injuries, garnered national attention just days before Thanksgiving.
It did not take the activist media long to attempt to spin the tragedy. Some headlines seemed to suggest the SUV magically drove itself into a crowd of people. Of course, this was to distract from the reality that the suspect is a black man with an extensive criminal record who was released on paltry bail due to progressive reform policies.
But with the skewed media coverage and politicization of the event, there is something the nation seems to be missing amid the hubbub over the assault. What appears to be going unnoticed is arguably the most important factor in this story: What happened directly after the attack.
I received an email from one of my readers that encapsulates the most important takeaway from this dreadful story. It is a poignant reminder of what America truly is, and it is a much-needed message that the country should hear.
The reader shared with me a text message from his sister who was at the parade with “her two daughters, their husbands, and 3 grandchildren, seated immediately where the parade participants were struck.”
He told me that her “daughters are both nurses, and helped to get the crushed little girls into police cars.”
In the message, his sister explained that she is “still completely speechless and stunned regarding the events that took place” in her hometown, especially during an event in which she has marched frequently. “Three feet- that is how close the SUV came to hitting my family. My babies. My whole world. I don’t know why he decided to make an abrupt turn of the wheel but by God’s grace we are without physical scars,” she wrote. “Three feet- where those first struck band members fell to our toes and became more than just strangers.”
She was reminded of a quote from Mr. Rogers: “In times of tragedy, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
The sister painted a picture of a community immediately coming together in the face of a horrific event to aid those in distress. She wrote:
While the scene was littered with tiny dancers with glittery eye shadow, bloody saxophones and broken strollers it was also filled with strangers hugging, praying and crying over conscious and unconscious children who had no parents nearby. Store owners opening their doors to shelter complete strangers. Citizens making lists of children’s names hiding in each business so they could help the screaming parents desperately running down the street looking for their babies. Teenage kids handing out towels and ice. People holding children’s necks in position until medical teams could assist.
People talking to injured children to keep them calm. People throwing their blankets onto children to keep their little bodies warm. People transporting complete strangers to local hospitals. Medical professionals everywhere working “in the scene” with little to no resources, not because they wanted to be called heros [sic] – just because it is pure instinct. People with no medical training just holding a child’s hand because “that is all they knew how to do”- it was enough. People jumping into police cars with children they didn’t even know to escort them to hospitals because there weren’t enough ambulances. People calling parents of injured band members to deliver the tragic news. People handing out water to anyone in the street. People echoing law [e]nforcement messages when there was an “all clear” on an active shooter. People simply huddled in store fronts praying…
The sister continued, noting that “helpers” were “literally everywhere” and that while the “scene” was one that she would never have wanted to be a part of, it was “a scene that was miraculous in so many ways.”
To me these aren’t just kids in a parade anymore- they have names: Julia, Connor, Kenzie, Olivia, Avery…the list goes on. All of them, and the others in my thoughts and prayers. I will never forget their scared little faces.
She concluded her message by pointing out that “in times of tragedy there will always be helpers[,] and that is how you know things may not ever be the same but things will be ok.”
Her message is as essential as it is beautiful. The story reflects that which we often forget amid the division and toxic political atmosphere that plagues our society.
Indeed, what is noteworthy about this story is that in her story, there were no Republicans or Democrats. There were no progressives or conservatives. There were no blacks, whites, Latinos, or Asians. There were just people. Individuals in need and the helpers who stepped up to render aid.
To put it another way: There was nothing dividing these people in these moments. The only thing that was important was coming together to alleviate the pain of those who suffered.
This is who America truly is.
These are the type of stories that America needs right now.
Yes, it is important to understand how this attack happened. Yes, it is essential that we figure out how not to repeat the mistakes that led to this disaster.
But focusing on how Americans came together to help one another is every bit as important. For those who sincerely want a level of unity, these types of stories might provide us with what we need to heal the cavernous rift that exists in our society.
Far too often we are focused on fiery debate and getting one over on our opposition. This has been present in every political society since the dawn of time.
But this does not mean we can’t get back to a place where we can have intense disagreements without seeing one another as enemies presenting an existential threat. Perhaps if we had as many stories about Americans coming together as we do Americans being at each other’s throats, we could strike a balance between the two.
It might be wishful thinking. But what if it could happen?