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Shannon Casas: When coping with tragedy, you'll never regret love
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Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Georgia gather with the public, and family and friends of Nicolas Blane Dixon Thursday, July 11, 2019, at Free Chapel in Gainesville, Ga., for funeral services for the fallen Hall County Deputy. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sometimes it’s hard to know who we can rely on when things really get tough.

For the kids who have lived at our house, sometimes — at surprisingly young ages — they feel they can’t rely on anyone but themselves. They try to forge ahead by the strength of their own little hearts and minds because they just don’t know what else to do but push others away.

But we need one another. We need connection; we need relationship.

Watching this community step up to fill that need this week has been incredible.  Hundreds lined the streets for the funeral procession of Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon, we at The Times can barely keep up with a story outlining the donations and gestures being made in his honor, and his funeral service was packed and befitting the man described by his loved ones as “just an amazing person.”

From my perspective here in the newsroom that serves this community, I watched our staff pull together and work to track down every angle of this story. I’m proud of the work they did to tell this story with clarity and compassion — a story we all wish wasn’t true.

We’ve all needed one another as we endured the emotions of this week.

And I can’t help but think what lack of relationship and connection happened in these teen’s lives that led them to this evil end.

Some of us are angry — at what happened, at these teens, at our inability to prevent this tragedy, at God. Some of us are mournful — for the Sheriff’s Office, for Deputy Dixon’s family, for ourselves.

When comforting children in foster care dealing with a whirlwind of emotion, we usually call it “big feelings.” Sometimes it comes out as tantrums, sometimes in tears. We’ve all got some big feelings this week. 

Perhaps we need to feel angry for a while. It’s certainly a valid reaction to this horrific tragedy. But anger in the end doesn’t bring us peace. 

I didn’t know Deputy Dixon, but what I’ve heard about him this week makes me believe he would know what to do with these big feelings — turn them in to love toward those who need us most.

Hug your kids, your spouse, your friends in law enforcement. And I’d challenge you to find someone who doesn’t have as much love in their life and pour some their way.

Deputy Dixon did that in so many ways in his life, whether it was a hug for a homeless man or cash to help someone get home safe. 

I don’t know what amount of love is required to prevent tragedies like the one this week. Sometimes you give and give and the outcome is still tragedy.

But I know I’ve regretted what I’ve done in anger. I’ve never regretted loving someone.

This tragedy hurts us all, but the ones it hurts most is those who knew and loved Deputy Dixon. There’s sorrow because there was connection and relationship and love. Though a bullet severed that earthly relationship, there is connection between us all as we mourn and there is love for his memory and his family.

As we process this loss in our community, let’s turn our emotions and then actions toward love. We need one another.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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