The formal ceremony is done, but the people's memorial is just beginning

The official memorial is over.

Now it’s up to us to find the best ways to honor the sacrifice of Lakewood’s four slain police officers.

Some 400 readers joined a News Tribune Web discussion Tuesday with Andie Gernon, former Lakewood city councilwoman and longtime civic booster; the Rev. Chris Morton, Associated Ministries executive director; and me.

The pain of the Nov. 29 shooting is raw, and that’s normal, Morton said.

“What we need more than anything is an opportunity to feel the losses that we’ve experienced,” he wrote.

Associated Ministries will continue its Moment of Blessing tradition at the Forza Coffee Co., 11401 S. Steele St., at 11 a.m. Thursday “to reclaim that space as a place for life.”

The people of Lakewood are allowing themselves to grieve, Gernon said, and challenging themselves to band together and make something productive from this. “It appears that there’s a desire to reach out and strengthen the unity,” she wrote. “People just want to hug each other.”

The hugs have reshaped themselves throughout the past 10 days. Mourners expressed them as flowers, stuffed toys and messages left at memorial sites.

People lit the night with them as they placed blue lights in their windows. Restaurants delivered them as meals to the officers’ families and the police.

“That is all part of the healing,” Gernon wrote. “Then will begin the hard work of making necessary changes in laws, in action, but also in the way ordinary folks treat others NOT like themselves.”

Web poster Barbara Gorzinski agreed.

“We can’t just stop at memorials and shrugging our shoulders at the extent evil impacts our community,” she wrote. “We need to look squarely at it and make the commitment to join ourselves to the work necessary to change it.”

That might involve changing laws, wrote Web poster Armand.

“Maybe we should start by re-writing laws and/or amending the State Constitution so that violent recidivist felons are not eligible for bail,” he suggested.

The work might mean mobilizing a fresh force of community volunteers. Lakewood – indeed, all of Pierce County – have agencies standing by to connect willing volunteers with the work they’d like to do.

“My predilection is always toward involvement with the young people, because it’s so easy to do, it’s extremely effective, and there are so many kids who need a hand up,” Gernon wrote.

Schools need reading tutors. Communities in Schools needs mentors. Food banks need hands to pack and stock.

It’s easy to imagine that the four officers would be pleased if their sacrifice could inspire a surge in community service. It’s certain that people who join that surge will feel better for it.

But there’s still an awful, rough wound left to heal.

Gernon told of going to church Sunday, and praying for the officers and their families, as well as killer Maurice Clemmons and his family.

“A friend said she was not quite ready for that,” Gernon said.

Thousands of us are with that friend. We’re angry at laws and the people who slide past them. We’re distressed with courts, politics, social services and the holes in them. And we are livid at people who live so far away from decency that they can support a creep like Maurice Clemmons.

Dealing with all that should be on our civic agenda, along with figuring out what we can, and should, change about our systems and our community.

Morton is working on that. Sometime in mid-January, Associated Ministries will host a community-wide service to remember the officers and inspire us to act for them.

Following that, Morton said, congregations will host dialogues. They’ll give us the chance to discuss safety and security in a community where four officers can be gunned down in broad daylight.

They’ll study the corrections system and rehabilitation, prisoners re-entering the community, the nature of justice, the mental health care system, finding peace in a violent world.

His timing is wise. We’ll need a few weeks to settle our emotions, to displace our grief and shock with the comfort and celebration of the holidays, and to recharge ourselves for the work ahead.

The people’s memorial is just beginning.

Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677