The tragedy June 30 at the Wylie Street Apartments can’t be undone — and for the refugee families who had loved ones injured or killed, it will always be part of their lives. But despite these facts, our community is determined that this single awful act will not define us.
Instead, the thousands who brought flowers, stuffed animals, cash donations, tears and hugs to Monday evening’s vigil at Boise City Hall show the true spirit of our great community. They had a simple two-word message to deliver: Love wins.
It is our response to this tragedy that truly defines us — whether it’s the first responders who saved lives that terrible evening, the relief agencies that do essential and difficult work to help refugees assimilate, or the young man I saw handing out popsicles to the apartment complex’s residents the hot afternoon after the attack.
Even in the most terrible moment of this week — when we heard that Ruya Kadir, the sweet little 3-year-old birthday girl had died from her injuries — the outpouring of grief, sympathy and concern from the community was one of the proudest moments of my 58 years as a Boisean.
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We’ve long talked about Boise being a welcoming community. Compassion and inclusiveness is part of who we are. In the 12 hours before the attack, I attended the Families Belong Together rally with hundreds of others showing support for the families separated at the U.S.’s southern border. Shortly after, I went to a bat mitzvah party catered by an Arab restauranteur. For many decades, Boise has been a place of refuge and kindness for those escaping the violence and oppression tearing their own homelands apart. That is the Boise we all know.
One heinous act from someone from outside of our community will not change that fundamental character of our city – in fact, at Monday’s vigil, we proved that Boise’s welcoming spirit is stronger than it’s ever been.
There is still plenty to be done. The families of those injured or killed face huge financial, cultural and emotional hurdles to get back to anything like a normal life. And many in our refugee community are still shaken by this event, worried that Boise is no longer the safe haven it once seemed. We, as a community, must re-double our efforts to embrace these new Boiseans to let them know they are safe, that we support them and value them as our neighbors.
This week, as we celebrate our nation’s founding, let’s recommit to our principles of equality and freedom of religion. Let’s take the first important steps past despair and continue the caring legacy for which our city is known. To do otherwise would be a step away from who we are as Boiseans. Let’s ensure that in Boise, love wins.
David H. Bieter is the mayor of the City of Boise.