Originally, I’d titled this column “Tragedy on 25th Street,” a headline that seemed best fitting for the horror that unfolded here in Fargo on Friday, July 14; that afternoon when a shooter stunned our community by opening fire on police and civilians on 25th Street South after a routine fender-bender.
But now, with more details unfolding and settling deeper in my psyche and soul, I’ve revised my thinking. While what happened was indeed a tragedy—one of our own was killed, several were injured, and many others, traumatized—if we only look upon that crushing day from a worldly lens, it could be stymying.
Another perspective can turn this tragedy—and evil itself—on its head.
Let’s look at some spiritually significant facts. Officer Zach Robinson arrived on the scene around 3 p.m. on a Friday, the same time and day that, over 2,000 years ago, Jesus died. My faith tradition calls this the Divine Mercy hour, connecting it back to Good Friday, when an infusion of grace poured out from Jesus’ beaten body for the sake of all humanity.
The next harrowing events prompted Officer Robinson to move bravely, heroically. His friends were on the ground, and a heavily armed gunman sought his demise. He had mere seconds to think, and all had to be in perfect order for Zach to have thwarted something more gruesome yet. But he did it, and we can never thank him enough.
At a press conference on July 21, Attorney General Drew Wrigley surmised that Zach Robinson had to be one of the loneliest people in the world in that moment. But I also believe he wasn’t truly alone, spiritually speaking. Indeed, with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).
In recent days, I’ve learned of personal connections I have with the mothers-in-law of both Officer Robinson and his injured comrade Officer Andrew Dotas. Both are praying mothers, and I assume some of the other victims also came from praying families.
When those quick decisions had to be made, I believe their prayers rose up, and that God applied the graces flowing from these mothers’ pleas at the moment at which they were most needed.
It goes without saying that Officer Jake Wallin is also a hero, for he gave his life for others. “Your life for mine.” It’s what Christ did for us, and what we’re all called to do for one another.
Evil did not have the last word. The shooter underestimated God’s power. “For you show your might, (God), when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.” (Wisdom 12:17). Though there’s much to grieve, there’s much more for which to be grateful.
We now have a choice about how we’ll approach this difficult hour and beyond. Rather than giving evil more power than it deserves, might we view this shattering day as an opportunity to recognize our dependence on God and our great need for grace?
Let us pray unceasingly, for we never know when we’ll need those prayers most.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on July 31, 2023.]