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Barry Nelson, Published June 28 2009

Community can come together in the wake of a tragic incident

A tragedy occurred in our community this past weekend. It has touched us all. To the family of Joel LaFromboise, on the sudden and tragic death of their son and brother, our deepest sympathies. To Vernon Allen, who will for the rest of his life be faced with the sight of a mortally wounded young man and the memory of pulling the trigger, our thoughts are also with you.

This has affected every one of us. Joel is our child, our son, our brother, our friend. His life potential will not be realized, but his memory will forever stay in this place. This tragedy has prompted every one of us to re-evaluate our perspective on safety, security, value of property and day-to-day activities. Questions such as: Do I need to lock my home when I am there; what role do guns play in homes for safety; and the revelations that we have laws that protect homeowners who use deadly force have all informed our discussions online and in person.

The second great tragedy flowed out of the first. Prompted by a friend, and against my better judgment, I went to the comments section that flowed from the articles in The Forum surrounding the young LaFromboise’s death. I was astounded and deeply saddened by the darkest side of our humanity that spewed forth in many of those comments. To sink to such depths of ignorance, hatred and pure racism while a community reels from a death is unconscionable. Calls for The Forum to review its policy on printing one and all entries – without a level of responsibility of identifying oneself – are appropriate.

In the meantime, each one of us needs to evaluate our own prejudices, and take responsibility for our community. We can begin by owning up to the well-being of our children – all our children, regardless of race, religion, or part of town. We can begin by caring for the families in our community, whether we are related to them or not. We can challenge statements of hate and bigotry as though they are directed at our very own heart, because they are. They reflect who we are as a community and a people.

This is not a time to point fingers of blame. This is a time to come together to make this a better place for our children and our families.

Nelson is executive director Metro Youth Partnership, Moorhead.