‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, now a popular cultural phenomenon and design motif, originated in Britain during World War Two to strengthen morale during wartime bombings and the threat of an actual invasion of troops. Very ‘stiff upper lip’ and English in tone, it can offer something to us here in Highland Park.
We suffered an unimaginable tragedy; one of our community being killed by the recklessness of another. For the little girl’s family and the rest of us, this was the worst that could possibly happen. Our community, as some said, was in danger of being torn apart.
Before any but the most basic of facts were known some people in our community spread rumors, made accusations and assumed the worst. Like a diseased person who coughs uncontrollably in a crowded space, they were careless in spreading their infectious assumptions and their ‘germs’ can’t be recalled. These type of people have lived in every city, in every age and whether they lead public opinion or not indicates the health of a community.
Those who ‘kept calm and carried on’ in this tragedy showed our community’s true spirit. Community organizers immediately created a fund to assist the family, a walk was held to offer support and comfort, and the best of our community was able to counter the worst.
As the true facts come to light I doubt the gossips will print retractions, but the lesson can still be learned for the future and we can take stock of those who are consistent in their efforts on our behalf.
Our fire and medical personnel were quick and efficient in their duties. The police were thorough, fair and professional in their investigation and are taking appropriate action in spite of criticism. The same people who create the environment where many Highland Park residents don’t bother to lock their doors at night can be loved or hated at a moment’s notice; yet they keep calm and do their duty without regard to politics or pressure.
Clergy and community organizers offered comfort and support to the community at large and our mental health professionals have offered counseling to both of the families involved.
Here on Patch, columnist Ed Brill wrote a very telling piece about the incident and pointed out that the family of the car’s driver is actually a family of influence, but in a good way; people who are involved in our community through caring and service. He reminded us, as others have lately, that this is a tragedy to two families, as much as it is one for all of us who can’t imagine the sorrow of losing a child of our own.
The legal system will continue to pursue justice in this case and punishment will follow. No matter what the outcome of the legal proceedings loss and sorrow will stay with the child’s family forever, with both families involved, but they will carry on. In our town we will always have different cultural heritages, different economic situations, different political and public opinions, and we need to realize that it is not how we behave in ‘peace’ alone that makes us a community.
We need to take stock of how we behave in times of ‘war’ and commit to each other to work for unity, not fear and to run our businesses and raise our children as best we can. We can't undo this tragedy, but we can work to prevent similar ones from happening in the future.
Thank you to all who offered support, guidance, comfort and leadership in this crisis and to those of you who continue to be a voice of reason as we cope with this tragedy together.
Keep calm, and carry on Highland Park.