Candles, flowers and signs at a memorial near the scene...

Candles, flowers and signs at a memorial near the scene of Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo. Credit: Craig Ruttle

A father picking up a cake for his son's third birthday.

A husband buying snacks for a movie night with his wife.

The former head of an area food pantry.

A community activist. 

A taxi driver waiting for passengers.

And the security guard trying to do his job.

Ten individuals, all Black, ranging in age from 32 to 86. Together, they wove a pattern, each pieces in the fabric of a community.

Now they are gone, killed in a terrifying rain of gunfire while grocery shopping at a neighborhood hub Saturday afternoon, allegedly by 18-year old Payton Gendron, a self-identified racist and white supremacist who terrorized a community and left ripples of fear and sadness in his wake.

Too many communities know the pain percolating through the Buffalo neighborhood surrounding the Tops supermarket. Hate-driven shootings in synagogues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Poway, California, a church in Charleston, South Carolina, a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and a Walmart in El Paso, Texas have shattered the fragile peace those neighborhoods had enjoyed. Just a day after the Buffalo shooting, another community's peace was shattered, as a gunman who immigrated from China and was allegedly motivated by hate for those in the breakaway nation of Taiwan, allegedly shot six people affiliated with a Taiwanese congregation in Laguna Woods, California, killing one.

And hate arrived here, too. On Sunday, the Jewish Community Center of the Greater Five Towns in Lawrence received a bomb threat. The building was deemed safe, but concern was heightened.

The violence has left many feeling uneasy and unsafe, knowing that where we worship or where we shop or where we work or where we live could leave us vulnerable to a hate-filled attack. It is particularly unsettling that the very ties that bind us, the ones we celebrate and cultivate — our cultures, religions, heritage or the color of our skin are the same ones that somehow lead to hatred and division, to violence and destruction. 

The threat of hate and violence to those who are Black or Hispanic or Asian or Jewish, or a member of any targeted group, isn't new. Neither is the attempt to pinpoint an "other" for blame. But those tropes seem far more likely to lead to horrific outcomes now, in part due to the prevalence of guns and the  reinforcement of hate by through social media and other outlets, That sinister combination can seem insurmountable and unsolvable.

But consider this: If more and more of our neighbors, co-workers and friends become targets of hate and violence, if more and more people don't feel safe and comfortable in places central to their lives, then all of us should feel unsafe and uncomfortable. That unease must stay with us, to motivate us to recognize the danger, combat the divisiveness and fight for a time when we can celebrate, pray or, yes, shop for a birthday cake, without fear.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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