News item: On Christmas Eve day a big shopping mall in Charlotte emptied out when someone started shooting during a fight at a shoe store. Last-minute shoppers screamed and ran for their lives, hid under tables at the food court, and authorities blocked their flight to I-77 next door, forcing people to lay low in their cars in the parking lot and just hope for the best.
Initially I paid scant attention to our little Christmastime incident in Elkin just two days before. But events in Charlotte and elsewhere kept pulling me back to it.
The Charlotte shootings. The San Bernardino, California, shootings. The president and gun control.
And three days before Christmas Virginia decreed that North Carolinians and others from out-of-state may no longer carry concealed guns there even with their respective state’s permit. The state attorney general there said our and others’ gun laws are too lax.
Here at home, I never heard if they found out anything more after an Elkin police car was hit by an apparent stray bullet while an officer was gassing up at the North Bridge Street store now called Speedway.
But I’ll still call the store by its original name, Wilco, and so will other old-timers here in the hometown for a good long while yet. Wilco was the name for decades, going back to the original building that opened in the 1960s in a storefront that was not much bigger than a storage shed.
We like to think that we live a near-bucolic existence here. Our homes are modest, our jobs are adequate, our schools are good, and we feel relatively safe from harm.
But once in a while something happens to shatter our sense of security and drag us kicking and screaming back to the real world, to the greater, more ominous world around us.
We mustn’t get smug as other communities are mourning and burying their dead while all we need is a plug of auto body patch and some paint for a police car.
After all, that could have been you or me at the Wil …, er, Speedway. I’ve pumped gas there many times, walked from the pumps to the store and back, particularly for Icees in summertime.
I’m just as good a target for a bullet as you or an Elkin police officer. The bullet last month could have had my name on it. It could have hit me. Or you. It could have killed.
Sometimes the outside world breaks in to ours and shatters our peace. Think of Jonesville police officer Greg Martin shot to death in 1996 during a traffic stop on I-77 by a Florida criminal just passing through.
And to be fair it’s not always from an outsider. Think of the April home invasion in State Road that left Jeremy Darnell shot to death.
Stuff happens, as they say. Stuff can happen to each and every one of us. A shooting. Cancer or other sudden illness. The loss of a loved one. Financial/employment collapse.
I urge you to get right with the Lord because stuff can happen at any moment. A bullet can have your name on it.
But we won’t stop going to the Wil …, er, Speedway. Or Wal-Mart. Or Lowes. Or other places.
We won’t stop leaving our homes, we won’t withdraw from the world, not that we ever could.
Instead we gamely carry on, trying to keep our little corner of the world clean and tidy, doing what good we can, starting with family, neighbors and friends, voting as best as we know how, and keeping the pessimism at bay.
And if the bullet, literally or figuratively, does come my way or yours, know that those who remain will carry on and keep the faith and in most cases will do us proud.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.