The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
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Proof of 'Community'


April 27, 2022 | View PDF

I’ve heard on many occasions that tragedy proves the value of your friendships, relationships.

A little more than 23 years ago an entire community had to quickly define itself when Columbine High School took its place among schools that had experienced a bloody rampage and loss of life.

As the headlines unfolded, there were countless tears and hugs of support from friends and likely from people who felt the pain and offered their support to those directly connected with the incident.

They didn’t care who was in the Honor Society, or who was on the A-Squad. They were in shock. Their sense of safety had been ripped away, effectively by their own. They relied on each other in their speechless grief and endless pain.

Since then, stories by survivors have offered bittersweet accounts. There were those who saw Klebold and Harris and chose the right hallway instead of the left, leaving the building moments before everything happened. There are accounts of students who stared death in the face and didn’t blink. As time has moved on, there are staff and students who have stayed in contact, developed friendships that occurred out of necessity and common experience, and those who have taken to public speaking in relation to their experiences.

Community is sometimes proven in how it reacts to hard times, how it draws its own under its wings when life is tough.

I have to admit I’ve seen that statement proven in the past. I’ve seen friends and the community stand behind us when events were not so nice.

The year 2006 was loaded with challenges, to be almost too nice about it. When we lost my dad, there was an odd quietness about it, a quietness I have since defined as me, listening for a voice that no longer speaks.

I remember offering to speak at the service, then to hear the mic squeak as the tech tried to increase the volume to compensate for me struggling through the moment. I remember when our daughter died and the days and months after the service. We wanted to just stay home and have a basic dinner, but nothing sounded good.

The appetite left with our daughter; grief in motion. We go out to eat. It sounds odd. Maybe something inside of us wanted to be served. We have our roast beef, omelette or whatever was on the menu and make our way to the cashier only to find out someone had taken our ticket.

We had the money. What we didn’t yet have is a clear vision of the daylight. We were still walking through the valley of death.

One of the reasons we made it through is the social network who would ask the hard questions and quietly put a smile back on our faces.

The meals purchased made a difference because it reminded us friends were standing in the gap for us. They didn’t look at us like we were broken, although we often felt we were. They, collectively, offered an understanding smile and a cup of coffee.

The reality is we all walk through chapters of life where we feel like the sun will never shine again and we’re swimming through alligators. Faith helps keep the light coming on in the morning, as does recognizing we are not walking this journey alone. Sometimes the best thing we can do for another person is to let them know we “have their six,” we got their back, walking with them in support of the details of life.

People aren’t designed to walk through life alone. There are chapters of lone-ness, but the journey is best, safest when having someone at your side.

We need to be a community that reaches out to those in need of a smile, an anonymous cup of coffee, a free meal, something that lets them know they are not invisible in a crowd. The value of community is how we value each other, collectively.


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