Marching Against Violence
No one ever knows when the moment will hit. When
it does though, time ceases to matter, because the moment
is frozen in the memory of an unpleasant time…
I remember such a moment… it was expected though
because of where I was and when it was. I remember it
well, the terrible shock that threw me out of my bunk.
A deep thunderous explosion cracked the calm of my sleep
followed by the cacophony of noise that assaulted the
quiet. From every direction the chaos came, pummeling
into awakeness another angry night. Then there was a
dead, dead, silence. Eerie how it was always like that,
the silence I mean. It was only for a few seconds that
eerie silence. Like the silence that comes between the
flashing lightening and the rolling thunder. We all know
the thunder is coming but when the expected comes it
still raises the hair on the back of your neck and sends
shivers up and down your spine. And it came…the
thunder of panicked voices, both frightened and angry,
yelling unintelligible mutterings… Look out!...
Get down!.... Where… what…
A voice that seemed to echo from the outer edge of my
thoughts snapped me back to reality. "Deacon Art?" I
looked down at the young woman with the old, old eyes
standing in the street looking up at me. She asked patiently, "You
OK?" … I nodded my head yes…I was of
It was August 14, 2008, my wife Sandy and I had decided
to celebrate the 37th anniversary of our marriage at
the burger and pizza place where two children, one 15
months old and the other seven years old had been shot.
They were so very innocent. They had come with their
parents to this small innocuous place and were victims
of a rambling and ugly violence. Sandy and I have celebrated
our anniversary at wonderful and romantic places…yet
no place as important as this…no place that we
needed to share our love for one another with, more than
this tragic place. We both agreed, this was the anniversary
we would always remember.
The young woman with the aged eyes was telling me how
terrible it was to live in the circumstances that had
robbed hope from the people who lived in the Northend
of Hartford… While she was talking, explaining
in detail what happens so often in this place, I could
only relate to it through my experience forty years ago
in the fall of 1968. It was strange because I had virtually
buried the terrible memories of Phu Bai… a U. S.
Marine camp just south of the DMZ in Viet Nam. I was
young then…with aged eyes. I had seen terrible
things in my little time in Viet Nam. So many people
were victimized by the violence that was a permanent
part of their lives. You could always see it in them,
especially in their eyes. It has come to me that many
people here in my country of America, are being terrorized
as well, just as it happened to people back then and
so far away.
How could all this happen here, now? Forty years ago
I and many young men and women like me traveled 7000
miles away to try and stop a violence that was destroying
a people. And now I could see within the soul of this
young/old woman the same sadness. It was the same loss
and pain I had seen in the eyes of the haggard people
in my memory of 7000 miles away and forty years ago.
I…we cannot let it happen here.
We are all called to love…like the Good Samaritan,
we cannot walk by and believe the problems of Hartford
are other folks' problems. Drive by shootings cannot
be the norm for a community and conversely we cannot,
we must not be drive by Catholics, and drive by leaders.
We are called to stop and lend a hand.
The 18th century English philosopher Edmund Burke said: "All
it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do
We are called to be good people doing something. The
time is now, the place is here.
Deacon Arthur L. Miller
Director, Office for Black Catholic Ministries
Local clergy in Hartford joined members of Mothers United
Against Violence in an anti-violence rally. From left
with placard is Rev. Nancy Allen of Immanuel Congregational
Church, at center walking together are Elder Nora Wyatt
of Mount Olive Church Ministry and Deacon Arthur Miller,
of St. Michael's and St. Justin's Catholic Churches and
director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries.
Behind Deacon Miller is Deacon Robert Pallotti, Director
of the Diaconate Office. Not shown is Deacon Dennis Ferguson
from St Thomas Catholic Church, West Hartford, CT. August