Florida’s Capital City is still reeling from two major shooting events in the same number of days that have left residents shaken and searching for answers.
More than 2,000 people, hundreds of them first responders and law enforcement, crowded the expansive halls of Bradfordville First Baptist Church. In front of the pulpit: the flag-draped casket of Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Smith. He was killed November 22 as he and another deputy arrived to a house fire. That fire was intentionally set by a gunman with anti-government views who was known to local law enforcement officials.
Deputy Chris Smith’s pastor says Smith was a family man who loved God and his wife.
“She kept him straight. I think she fattened him up too….(laughter). He loved his daughter, Gabby. He told me many times when we’d talk about different things at work he’d say ‘preacher, I’m going home to my daughter.’ He loved Hunter.”
Hunter is Smith’s son.
During a Monday night memorial service for Smith, Leon County Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Lindley says the rainy weather reflects the sorrow of Tallahassee:
“On Saturday morning our community suffered a tremendous loss when first responders, like they do every day, rushed toward danger while others sought safety. That’s what heroes do. And we lost one that day.”
Smith’s death occurred just two days after a gunman walked onto Florida State University’s campus and began shooting students in front of Strozier Library. Three people were injured, including 21-year-old Farhan Ahmed, who was struck three times. One bullet hit him in the spine. He’s now paralyzed from the waist down says his sister, Farhana Ahmed.
“Ronnie was immediately…He immediately knew something was wrong because one of the first bullets struck his spine and has left him paralyzed from the waist down. But despite his injuries he’s alive and we’re so grateful he’s here with us.”
Farhana Ahmed speaking about her brother’s condition to reporters earlier this week. It’s still a lot to take in. And many in the community are struggling to absorb it all. It’s the kind of violence seems to happen in bigger cities—those far away. It doesn’t occur in Tallahassee, except—now it has. As as Billy Graham Ministry Chaplain Kelly Burke points out—it hurts.
“There’s been a tear in the fabric of society. There’s been a shaking in our very foundation. But we are not without hope, and we are not hopeless, nor are we helpless. In fact, it is in these dark times, it is in the storms of like that character is built and molded.”
Still while rain may have marked the somber mood of Tallahassee—it’s also come to symbolize something else. Cleansing. And already many are starting to look ahead, regroup, and begin to reassess what being a part of a community means.