This post diverges a little from my usual. It’s about the Sutherland Springs church shooting and touches on how clueless many people are about the reality of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The fifth worst mass shooting in US history and the worst in Texas history, this incident shook even a lot of people outside the area to the core. The decision to demolish the building where this happened and rebuild has elicited a lot of commentary, with some clearly not understanding why returning to the same place where this tragedy occurred may be too much for some who lost family members and friends.
I saw a lot of comments in the first few days after the shooting to the effect of how rebuilding elsewhere was “giving up” and how “everyone needs to think positive”. These sentiments don’t bring back any of the lives cut short or erase the painful images that are likely too fresh in the minds of the survivors at this point.
The reality is that PTSD is very likely to be an issue for many of those who experienced this tragedy firsthand. In addition to coping with the effects of trauma, bereavement is also a factor for the survivors and the loved ones of the victims.
My late father was medically diagnosed with PTSD and I saw what the effects were when he was exposed to something that needlessly reminded him of Vietnam. To me, it is very easy to see why the remaining members would want to find a different location.
A church or any place that fosters a sense of community ought to be a safe space. Shootings or other tragic events violate those safe spaces, and there are times when the loss is too great for the space’s sanctity to be regained – this may be one of those times for the affected congregation.
Rather than criticizing how survivors of a tragedy decide to move forward, support them with thoughts, prayers and meaningful action. We, as a society, owe it to all who have faced such tragedy in life, whether it’s war, terrorism or other human-created disasters.
A happy Veteran’s Day to all who have served!