Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reclaiming the Coffee Shop where the Lakewood Shootings Took Place

Forza Coffee in Parkland, Washington reopened yesterday.  At 8:14 AM, they relit their "Open" sign, two weeks to the minute after a gunman shot and killed four police officers from the neighboring Lakewood Police Department inside the coffee shop.  The line was out the door.  They served 1100 cups of coffee.

This reminded me of something in my own life.  Several years ago, when I lived in Pittsburgh, a man drove through the southern suburbs seeking out people of color, immigrants and Jews and shooting at them.  Several people died.  A synagogue was shot at and swastikas drawn on the walls.  That night, I went to that synagogue for services.  I had never been there before, and I haven't been back.  But that night, the place was packed.

When we intentionally visit someplace where a crime has occurred, we are accomplishing several things.  We are making a statement that we will not be intimidated -- this was certainly true in the case of the synagogue.  We are supporting an establishment that has experienced a trauma, just as we might if something terrible happened to a neighbor or friend.  We are offering moral support.

We are also reclaiming the space from the trauma that occurred there.  Very often, people who experience trauma avoid the place where it happened, sometimes for a very long time.  The place brings back vivid and unpleasant memories, so they simply choose not to expose themselves to it.  Going back represents a graduation of sorts.  It means that while we remember what happened there, we are not afraid of the space anymore.  By having something positive occur there, such as an outpouring of customers or worshippers, we are building a new, positive association to go alongside the negative one that will always be there.

That Forza branch will probably do a brisk business for a long time now.  It is a memorial to those who died, a place for the living to remember, and a symbol of the community coming together.  No one's going to want it to go out of business for a long, long time.


Colleen said...

There are worse ways to deal with trauma! When a potentially threatening but actually non-traumatic incident happened in our town (spray painting a poorly executed swastika on the sidewalk), people were outraged. They had a vigil, and non-Jews sent checks to the local synagogue, to say, "Not in our Town".

Sometimes mildly bad things that happen remind people of worse things and end up precipitating more good than harm.

What does this have to do with the coffee shop reopening? Not a whole lot....people's positive reactions maybe? At any rate, it's better than the comments I've seen elsewhere, complaining about how it's all the cops' fault for hanging in coffee shops (obviously having missed the fact that they were doing _paperwork_.)

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