It’s one thing to say Boise is a welcoming community, supportive of people fleeing war and other trauma to start new lives in the U.S. It’s one thing to say the community should support the children and families injured in a fatal knife attack this weekend.
It’s quite another thing to demonstrate it. But Boise’s actions have spoken loudly.
The weekend’s unfathomable attack on children at a birthday party that killed one child more than shocked this community. It pulled it together.
People rallied. Strangers reached out to strangers. Campaigns and fundraisers are helping with medical and travel costs. And the city hosted a vigil for Monday night to show the world that Boise lives its welcoming words.
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With sad and disquieting news in Boise and elsewhere, it seems that the world has become a less welcoming place, Tara Wolfson, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, said at the City Hall vigil. "Tonight, we're taking back the narrative."
Support was swift, and universal, following the weekend attack.
“We want to show families we are standing beside them,” said one attendee at an impromptu rally in Northwest Boise.
“These are victims who in their past homes have fled violence from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia,” said Police Chief Bill Bones.
We can’t begin to imagine that experience, or the violence revisited on those families Saturday night, allegedly by a man with a long criminal history in Tennessee, California and Utah. But we can repeat and reinforce our support for those who sought refuge in our country and became our neighbors, friends and colleagues, fellow Idahoans who enrich our community.
The challenge will be to sustain that support. Once the rush of attention and compassion eases, these families will face difficult struggles and costs to recover health and rebuild lives. All told, one child died and five other children and three adults were injured in the attack.
Boise is far from perfect. But we have a long and proud tradition of welcoming people fleeing strife, from Bosnia in the 1990s, and from Africa and the Middle East in recent years. Since 2003, more than 10,000 have settled in Idaho, most of them in the Treasure Valley. In 2016, a European Union delegation visited Boise to learn from our experience at welcoming and integrating refugees, and at combating discrimination.
“This is not what Boise is,” said Mayor Dave Bieter after the attack. “This is a chance to reaffirm what we stand for.”
That’s easy to say. But Boise is proving its mayor right.