1st person: Inside the Jordan Davis tragedy
My father has worked with Jordan Davis' dad, Ron, for the last 10 years. Ron was one of my dad's closest friends at work and has been able to see Jordan grow up.
I have absolutely grown to love the entire Davis family. I didn't know Jordan, but I absolutely adore his dad and stepmother. They are among the people I consider family.
Wednesday night's memorial service for Jordan Davis was, of course, very sad and full of emotion, but the overall tone was not what many expected. There was not a lot of anger, negativity or any harsh words. Instead, the overwhelming feeling and message was that Jordan's death should not be in vain.
Ron Davis is hoping that this tragedy leads to a "butterfly effect." He told me that if he can just influence one person to stop before they pick up a gun in anger, that maybe they will influence the next person. And so on, and so on, and so on.
His goal, though only a few days underway, is to stop gun violence.
Knowing Ron Davis for the last seven years, it was heartbreaking to see him go through something so tragic. He was wearing sunglasses and crying through most of the night. He's been crying since we first talked on the phone early Saturday morning.
He stood during the three-hour viewing, tightly hugging everyone who came to the front of the room to talk to him. On a normal day, he's the kind of man that when he hugs you, it's a "good" hug, that lets you know he's a great guy. You can just imagine how meaningful his hugs were last night at the memorial. I almost didn't want to let go.
A lot of Jordan's classmates were at the service. They sat quietly together, often sobbing and consoling each other. Ron had talked to them at school earlier in the week. He wanted to make sure that they knew he didn't want them to be angry or looking for revenge.
He wants them to use this tragedy for good and to stop violence; not create more. He made T-shirts for the students, and most of them changed into them right there at the funeral home.
There were a lot of strangers at the service who just came to pay their respects to the family. Former Mayor John Peyton came to give his condolences on behalf of the Gate family. It was ironic, though, because he and Jordan's dad had a very special moment where they realized they knew each other from Jacksonville International Airport.
Jordan looked very peaceful, very handsome. Looking at him in the casket it was really hard to believe that he's gone. He's just so young. My dad and I went up together to say our goodbyes.
This is the first time I've been so close to something that's become the "top story" in our city. It was a strange feeling walking outside to see all of the news crews in the parking lot next door. Every station in town was there to cover the service.
Jordan's death is impacting me in ways that are hard to communicate, even though it's my job. It's been with me since I got the call at 4 a.m. last Saturday.
I have always tried to be kind, sympathetic and respectful when covering tragedies like this. Normally, I'm the one standing across the street. After being inside and seeing the pain and anguish, I will be even more so in the future.
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