I can only pray. That’s all I know how to do.

I am nobody. I am not particularly smart. I am not savvy when it comes to political discourse. I am just a guy. I have no wisdom. I have no preachy words. No condescending sentiments. The world is falling apart. I get it. All I can do is pray.

It’s not supposed to happen here. It’s not supposed to happen anywhere. And it’s definitely not supposed to occur in our own backyard.

But it did happen, you see. It happened right here in our home state. It happened to our people. To our kids. To our loved ones. And my heart bleeds.

Bleeds, I tell you.

I cried this morning when I read the news. I cried because this time it’s personal. I cried because I watched the news anchor tell America that nobody is safe anymore. Not you, not me, not anyone. That’s what they said.

I cried because, this time, I’ve probably met some of the victims. Maybe so have you. Especially if you live in Alabama.

Everyone in Alabama knows each other. It is a long-established fact that wherever you visit an Alabamian Piggly Wiggly you run into at least three of your mother’s first cousins. That’s just how it works here.

Which is why I wept so bitterly. I cried because the mass shooting in Dadeville hit so very, very close to home.


Ashamedly, I wonder if I’ve grown numb to the headlines involving mass shootings. They happen so often. You see shootings on cable-TV all the time. You read about them in the newspaper. On the internet. Mass shootings happen in far off places.

A shooting will make national news for a few days. People will cry. People will get really hacked off on Facebook, and start dog-cussing each other. They will get angry, and spew their opinions, as if they’re really accomplishing anything. And then it all dies.

Eventually, everyone moves forward with their lives and essentially forgets about the dead. But that’s not supposed to happen here. Mass shootings don’t happen at home. Do they?

They can’t happen here on home turf. They only happen in big cities. Metropolitan areas. Huge towns with Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Red Lobsters. They happen in Philadelphia. Newark. Chicago. Nashville.

Not Tallapoosa County. Not in sleepy 3,000-person lakeside communities where both city-limit signs are attached to the same post. Not in the place where I take my spring and summer fishing trip. Not in a place where family lives. Not here.

Heavens, what is happening to us?

Four young people were killed. They were children. Children were gunned down. Our children. Our boys and girls. Our track stars. Our football stars. Our A-students. Slain.

Twenty-eight were injured in a mass shooting. The victims were teenagers, mostly. They weren’t out of high school. They weren’t old enough to purchase alcohol. They were barely old enough to drive.

It happened at a sweet-16 birthday party, of all places. These kids were only a few years shy of middle school. And now they are gone. Their bodies are lying in caskets. Their futures are dark. God help us.

The email I received this morning was one I never thought I would receive.

“Dear Sean, my friend’s child was wounded in a mass shooting…”

Please don’t misinterpret this colum/blog/post/whatever-the-heck-you-call-it. I have no agenda here. I have no opinions to exert. I am not writing this to incite controversy, arguments, or social-media smackdowns.

But tonight, the rivers of Tallapoosa County are bloodred. Tonight the skies of Alabama are black with grief. Tonight, our friends and family members are mourning the loss of our teenagers.

Tonight, I am sick, because I don’t know what to do. I wish there was something I could do.

So I will pray. I can only pray. That is all I know how to do. God bless Dadeville. God bless Alabama.

And God bless us all. Everyone.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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