How can a community cope with tragedy?

Over a horrid 48-hour period between Sunday, July 30, and Monday, July 31, an 11-year-old Morris girl, Jacelyn O’Connor, was murdered in the concession of rape in the Town of Norwich.

19-year-old Breanna Christian, of Norwich, sustained injuries in a harrowing automobile accident in the Town of Smithville that would ultimately take her life.

67-year-old Nancy Cushman – local business owner and wife to Norwich City Court Judge Jim Cushman – was killed in a motorcycle accident that left Jim, 70, in critical condition.

92-year-old Joseph A. Norton, of Sidney, was pronounced dead at the scene of a car accident in the Town of Unadilla.

All of this––in our typically quiet, little county––in a 48-hour period.

Hearing about all these tragedies Tuesday morning in the newsroom...It got to me pretty quickly. But I had to remind myself that it wasn’t about me.

Words can only do so much in consoling those whose lives are forever altered by those 48-hours. But we have to try. Words are our primary medium that we as people rely on to connect with one another. It’s how we empathize. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of Jacelyn, Breanna, Nancy, and Joseph.



If you’re reading this and you’re from Chenango County, it’s likely that you are in some fashion affected by at least one of these calamities.

But at the same time, the fact you’re taking the time to read this – be it on your computer or in print in The Evening Sun – indicates you probably haven’t been so affected by any of these tragedies that your life has been completely turned upside-down. And if that’s the case, you have a lot to be thankful for. I have a lot to be thankful for.

The fact of the matter is, after those 48-hours, a certain percentage of this county is hurting badly. Asking themselves that answer-less question: ‘Why?’ And there will never be an appropriate answer to that question, ‘Why?’, at least not one that would make sense or suffice to those who need to hear it.

That’s where you come in.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive, and therefore capable of making a great difference––be it for better or worse.

With the Lord as our Shepherd –– or however you decide you see it –– we can each offer a little light to those in need in the wake of an unspeakable storm, at little to no cost to ourselves.

This isn’t the first time our community has been struck by senseless tragedy, and unfortunately it won’t be the last. But here’s what you can do as an empathizing human being: Offer senseless acts of kindness. Be overtly there for one another.

When tragedy does strike your own personal life, as it inevitably does, it’s hard to answer the questions: ‘Why? What’s the purpose of this all? What’s it matter anyways?'

I think those questions are for you to answer personally.

But I think the closest I’ve gotten to answering those questions is, I have an opportunity in my life to make things a little bit easier for those who have it a whole lot worse than me. And for seemingly no reason. Just as these tragedies occur for seemingly no reason.

Together, we might be able to balance the two out. Even if it sometimes feels like we're coming up short, you can’t say we didn’t try––and that’s something.

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