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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times guest columnist: Cadence is the only name that matters

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  • Cadence Harris, a girl stolen from our community.
    It's my hope, as Leavenworth Times editor, writer of this opinion and a human being, that as many people remember that name as possible.
    It's my hope we think more about her than the gunman who allegedly took her life, that our thoughts and prayers lift her loved ones.
    We owe her that much.
    Cadence, 5 years old, was shot and killed Friday night in Leavenworth, the victim of a man who allegedly kidnapped her.
    A Kansas Bureau of Investigation probe will tell us more in coming weeks about the circumstances that led to Cadence's death.
    What we know, or think we know, is she was kidnapped in Atchison, taken into Missouri and then Leavenworth, where local police made contact and engaged the perpetrator.
    The suspect was wounded. He is being treated.
    Cadence was killed.
    The KBI has reported it's unlikely the fatal bullet came from local police, a reassurance and relief in a case that has few.
    Those brave law enforcement officers did their duty — they answered a call, put themselves in harm's way, protected the public and tried to save an innocent girl.
    Their service didn't deserve to be repaid with guilt from a stray bullet, and it won't be.
    The suspect has been arrested and charged. News dictates we publish his name as we track the case, but it won't appear in this column.
    This is about Cadence.
    About community.
    About what I believe true, perhaps naively: that despite violence getting the headlines, despite ugliness in this beautiful, broken world, there remains enough light to disinfect the dark.
    Leavenworth is familiar with violence — from the area's Old West history to the prisons that house it to the military base meant to defend against it — but we neither provoked nor invited what transpired Friday night. Yet here we are today, left to deal with the aftermath.
    I'm uncertain of the exact reason, but whenever I hear about violence such as Friday's, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words come to mind.
    Take from them what you will.
    "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," he said. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it."
    Dr. King, too, touched on answering violence with violence, a knee-jerk reaction in our society, a remedy seductive and fleeting.
    "Returning violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars," he said. "Darkness cannot drive out hate, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
    Another reaction in trying times like these, and understandably so, is openly questioning life around us.
    Page 2 of 2 - The world is going to hell, people say. What's the world coming to? they ask.
    It's a realistic opinion, and an honest question.
    I've thought a lot about it since Friday, whether violence or bad deeds outpace good in the world.
    I don't believe it does.
    I can't.
    Violence is part of us, an unfortunate inheritance from the time Cain slayed Abel, but it's not our natural state.
    Ask yourself, what's the ratio you see in life — the small, quiet, unnoticed and uncelebrated acts of kindness and love exhibited each day against the selfishness, depravity and harm?
    Which feels more real, more right?
    I take solace in the aftermath from some comments written by community members on social media when learning of Cadence's death.
    "Prayers sent to the family."
    "God has a new little angel in heaven."
    "RIP (little) angel."
    "May all our thoughts and prayers be strong and loud for all involved."
    Photos of Cadence have started circulating since Friday. Most of us didn't get a chance to know her, so we're left with her frozen in images, now and always young.
    She's riding a toy horse. Leaning against a tree and smiling on a warm day. Sticking her tongue out while wearing goofy glasses.
    I'm not a parent, and I can't comprehend the void left by a child's death.
    A friend who lost a child far too young put it into perspective for me, her words very thoughtful, though I'm certain inadequate to fully express the depth of her loss.
    "One of the hardest things of losing your child is not knowing who they would become," she wrote. "Not witnessing them dance, as well as stumble, through the milestones of life. Missing out on all that was to come. That is a pain that never dulls. Never relents."
    It's my hope there are measures of justice and catharsis for Cadence's family in the future, whatever that may look like.
    It's my hope the community, which suffered its own tragedy, heals as well.
    Though questions are many, and answers few as of now, I hope we never forget the name Cadence Harris.
    Maybe it's too sentimental, too idealistic, but I'm betting, true to form, as people and a community, we won't forget.

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