Just last month was the first time I visited the new Government Plaza, the five-acre park behind Tuscaloosa City Hall, which will be the site of a Citywide Candlelight Vigil this Wednesday night.
The June 1st vigil, which begins at 8 p.m. is taking place five weeks to the day after the devastating April 27th tornado.
According to published reports, the vigil will be a time to remember those who were killed or injured in the storms, and a time to reflect on all that has happened since April 27. The Office of Mayor Walt Maddox is organizing the event.
The last time I held a candle at an event would have been at the Christmas Eve services last December 24th back home at First Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.
Little did I know then that 41 people would lose their lives in a tornado that would plow through the city of Tuscaloosa where I work. On December 24th, I celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. On Wednesday I’ll be celebrating and mourning at the same time.
I’m sure I’ll shed a tear. It’s hard not to when you think about what’s happened and what’s ahead. But, I’ve noted FIVE REASONS why I’ll be there with the rest of Tuscaloosa:
1. Reason #1: Celebrate the Resilience of a Community
When we light up that plaza with our candles on Wednesday night, the collective glow will represent the resilience that we as a community have as we set ourselves up for the months and years of recovery. We are positioning ourselves to be used and the light of those candles will illuminate our way as we journey down that path TOGETHER as a community.
2. Reason #2: Mourn Our Lost Loved Lost Ones
I hate that it took the April 27th tornado for me to get to know people like Marcus Smith, a University of Alabama student from my hometown who lost his life in the storm. This Wednesday, we mourn his loss and the other more than three dozen of our neighbors who are no longer with us.
3. Reason #3: Unify Our community
Recovering from the April 27th tornado will take many, many years and the efforts of those who come from all walks of life and all aspects of our community.
Those of at the University will have to partner with so many from places near and far. But, it’s our unity that will make this happen. There won’t be the “I’s” and the “You’s,” but the “WE’s” who will get this done.
4. Reason #4: Remember the Call to Help the Least of These
As noted in an earlier post today, the frustrations of those who could least afford to lose their homes weigh heavily on us as a community. Where will they go when the shelters close? We will lift a candle on Wednesday night to light the way for them and say that we care and will be there for them individually and collectively.
5. Reason #5: Pray for Our Leaders, Other Communities
I sincerely hope those leading this event will remember the importance of us corporately remaining in a posture of prayer for Mayor Walt Maddox, Governor Robert Bentley, Police Chief Steve Anderson, FEMA Chief Craig Fugate and all of those, by virtue of their positions in government, are charged with providing leadership through the recovery.
We cannot forget to collectively pray for other Alabama communities such as Pratt City, Cullman, Hackleburg and outside our state, Ringgold, Ga. and Joplin, Missouri. These areas will be rebuilding even as we rebuild here.
They suffered a loss of life too. Our candles symbolize our collective resolve that we as not only Tuscaloosa residents, but also Americans have as we look forward, as we make our respective communities better than they were before the tornadoes.