Last night, before the Dallas Police vigil, members of the Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association gathered at Alto 211 for their monthly meeting. Instead of talk of the usual neighborhood business, the time was spent reflecting on the past few days.
Conversations focused on where people were as the tragedy of last Thursday night unfolded, what they were doing when they first heard about, the fear of bomb threats in their buildings, and the challenges of getting back to normal. Tears were shed. Money was donated. And then we walked over to City Hall.
As we walked, I couldn’t help but think that over the past few days, downtown has been very much different, but, also, very much the same. And while I want things to be back to normal, I want things to change.
Living downtown for six years, I’ve become accustomed to the sound of sirens. I use them to lull me to sleep. It was mentioned a couple times last night that over the past few days when once of us hears a siren, we get anxious.
And while it’s long been routine for me to see police officers and the Downtown Safety Patrol on the street, I’ve been taking a moment to stop and thank them when I do.
One thing I keep asking is: how does this change downtown?
Even though our group got to the vigil 30 minutes early, we were still not early enough to be able to see the stage. And the hundreds behind us couldn’t either. But that didn’t matter. All we needed were to hear the words and feel the emotion of the speakers, the family members, and all our neighbors.
While the mood was somber for most of the evening, when Dallas Police Chief David Brown was introduced, the crowd erupted. He compared the officers to Superman. DART Police Chief J.D. Spillers also received applause throughout his remarks. “We must lead Texas in discussions about race relations. We must lead America in protecting and supporting our officers,” he said. “If someone thought that what they did was going to tear up Dallas, Texas, they were wrong.”
As I watched a thousand candles lit against the backdrop of the blue-outline Bank of America building, Omni Hotel, and Reunion Tower, I couldn’t help but reflect on this remarkable moment. Not just for Dallas, but for downtown specifically. The neighborhood has grown to the point that we’re not an aspiring community. We are a community. And this moment is ours. We can choose to go back to normal. Or we can choose to push ourselves.
I want downtown to be a place that not only overcomes tragedy but also sets an example for how to overcome tragedy. I want downtown to be a place that doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. I want downtown to be a place that wraps its arms around those grieving while raising its hands to take up the next challenge.
I’m proud of Chief Brown. I’m proud of Mayor Rawlings. I’m proud of Dallas. And I’m proud of Downtown, my home.
Krista Nightengale is a former managing editor of D Magazine and is now managing director of Better Block.