Hope abounds following week of tragedy in Baton Rouge

Hope abounds following week of tragedy in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It has been seven full days since gunfire shattered the quiet and security of Baton Rouge, taking with it the lives of three officers who, by all accounts, died as heroes.

In the days since, so many have struggled to understand the darkness that fell across the city, but hope may still be possible. Tragedy pierced the heart of Baton Rouge when the lives of three brave men were cut short.

"It's unjustified and it's unjustifiable. The violence, the hatred just has to stop," Governor John Bel Edwards said.

"Attacks on police are an attack on all of us," added President Obama.

Leaders near and far were quick to condemn the actions of a lone madman hell bent on death and destruction as those close to the officers crumbled under the reality of his reign of terror.

Earlier this week, family members of the slain officers spoke with the media about their loved ones.

"He saw the officer that had been hit trying to crawl and he crawled back to him and in the process he was shot," said Tonja Garafola, wife of Deputy Brad Garafola.  

"It's just so surreal I mean we were kind of in shock you know it's just so hard to imagine right now that he's no longer with us," added Charles Cavalier, uncle of officer Montrell Jackson.

"It's something that I hope and pray that nobody ever has to go through," said Dechia Gerald, wife of officer Matthew Gerald.

But while hearts broke, arms opened wide as countless vigils, prayer services and rallies brought comfort to the families, and in many cases offered much-needed care for the wounds inflicted on the city.

Maria Givens attended a prayer service at Bethel A.M.E. Church Friday. She said it has been overwhelming how people have chosen love over fear and hate.
"I'm really proud of the way everyone is just joining hands and just loving each other and are there for each other," she said.

Baton Rouge has also become a temporary home for law enforcement officers from nearly every state as brothers and sisters of the Thin Blue Line have descended on the area to grieve and share the burden of this loss.

"It runs deep when something happens," said Lt. Brad Kelling with the St. Louis County Police Department in Missouri. "It doesn't matter if it happens in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, or a small town in Missouri, we all feel it."

Both Friday and Saturday were emotionally heavy days for the community as two of the men, Officer Matthew Gerald and Deputy Brad Garafola, were laid to rest. The outpouring of support both days and the genuine sense of togetherness is something many hope the community will continue to embrace.

"Because we definitely need it," said Donna Clarkson. "We absolutely have to come together. If we don't come together and we don't work together it's not going to work."

EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore said the actions of one man will not define the city or its residents.

"To have an outsider try to come in here and try to evoke his feelings on us is just disturbing but he didn't know Baton Rouge and he tried to take Baton Rouge from us but we're not going to let that happen," Moore added.

Perhaps the sign at the memorial for the slain officers which reads "God… Please help us heal," best sums up what everyone is feeling as the city says 'goodbye' to these brave men but perhaps 'hello' to a better future.

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