John White: Stength in community response overwhelming

You can imagine the challenge of covering the peace vigil at Millennium Park on Sunday evening.

Journalists are supposed to maintain a clinical detachment from the subjects they are covering to avoid injecting emotional bias or reactions to the stories they are writing.

This is made more difficult when you are an editor at a community newspaper — perhaps doubly so when you feel you are truly part of the community.

You can imagine the challenge of covering the peace vigil at Millennium Park in Castlegar on Sunday evening. I’m still working through my complicated grief issues from losing my parents at relatively young ages, so my emotions are always near the surface when grief is at hand.

Any chance I had of maintaining that hardened journalist veneer vanished when Coun. Deb McIntosh recounted during her opening remarks the recent loss of her best friend to a fentanyl overdose. I couldn’t use that clip in my video edit because you could hear me sniffling on the audio.

Then you have the poise of Greg Archibald as he shared the sad fact that nothing can effectively take away the pain he and his family are feeling after the loss of daughter Chrissy in a terror attack last week in London, England. Yet, his unshakable belief in love and positivity was overwhelming. The Twin Rivers choir was to perform after his statement, but the entire group was too overwhelmed by emotion to sing.

To see several hundred people gather together to share in this grieving was very moving. Despite the weight of the loss, you could feel a growing lightness to the proceedings as messages of hope and caring were made throughout the vigil, from pastors and noted speakers to regular citizens.

As the vigil host, McIntosh wore her emotions unabashed, and her depth of empathy was startling and real. You can sense her desire to make everyone feel better, as if she is driven by a maternal instinct for the entire city of Castlegar. That energy was so inspiring. You may or may not agree with her politics, but you can’t deny her intense love for the city and people of Castlegar.

Her central theme was that we should never assume we know what people are dealing with when we encounter them, and to be there for them when they need you. A simple gesture, nod or positive comment can make a major impact. It was the perfect takeaway from the vigil.

A lively soccer practice went on as scheduled in the fields behind the ceremony, reminding us all that life goes on, regardless of the pain of grief that can envelop you.

It was also a symbol of hope that there will be fun, sport, recreation and joy again for those in the heat of grief.

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