This morning I walked the 0.9 miles from my apartment to Harrisburg’s Unitarian Universalist church on Market Street. I wove my path around discarded mattresses and couches on the sidewalks, observing sunken rooftops and wondering if the broken and boarded windows outnumbered in-tact ones. I mentally drafted my next Friday 5 post on similarities between my neighborhood in Harrisburg and the “Third World” countries I’ve lived in.
I arrived at the church and was welcomed by the pastor, who once irritated me with a trite sermon about this being a middle-class congregation. I don’t attend regularly, but from what I’ve seen most of the members are middle-aged or older and probably don’t come near Market Street for any reason other than church.
Twenty minutes into the morning service, the pastor—who had been sitting in the pews with a woman whispering in his ear—rose and told us that a shooting had just taken place on the street in front of the church. (I hadn’t heard a gunshot or sirens.) The police had advised that we continue the service.
When the “music for the soul”-themed service ended, we were told to exit through the back kitchen door so we wouldn’t flood the crime scene. “That’s something you should never hear at church,” a woman behind me said.
To me, that comment showed a limited vision of the significance of the shooting that had just happened. What we had just heard about was something you shouldn’t hear about not just in church, but anywhere–because it shouldn’t happen.
Since the time the announcement was made, I’d been thinking about which way to walk home, the possibility that people involved could be related to my Head Start students, and the fact that besides getting to and from church, hundreds of people live and work in this neighborhood every day.
That means every day watching over your shoulder. Every day wondering who might get shot next. It means that every day, for we who cannot insulate ourselves in SUV’s and gated communities, violence and insecurity are not abnormal blips on the radar, but lived experiences carried deep within our skin and bones.