What’s going on around here?

Stephen Harris

This hits just too close to home.

Only three counties over to the west of us, just a couple of weeks ago the feds arrested a 19-year-old Morganton man who, authorities claim, planned to buy a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and go out and kill 1,000 people, according to news reports.

I shutter to think of what might have happened if the alleged, would-be killer had taken such a deadly weapon with such deadly intent to that town’s summertime version of Merlefest, called the Red, White and Bluegrass Festival, held annually during the Fourth of July holiday.

The festival is outdoors, and hundreds could have been sitting ducks in a spacious, open town park while at the mercy of a mass killer.

If carried out, that would have been a tragedy of immerse proportion, well beyond that of the Charleston, South Carolina, killings.

The Morganton teenager was described by the FBI as a self-styled jihadist with a thirst for blood even greater than that of the accused Charleston murderer.

There is talk about how serious was the teen, Justin Sullivan. But he allegedly told an undercover agent about coating bullets with cyanide and setting off a gas bomb in a van.

The feds moved in one day before a gun show in Hickory that Sullivan allegedly had his eye on.

We’ve been hearing many voices in the wilderness of late coming from many directions and warning that something very bad will — not maybe but will — happen.

One of the more gripping warnings came from Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director who’s now a TV news pundit. Morell was by the sides of presidents Bush during 9/11 and Obama during the Osama bin Laden raid.

In Morell’s new book, “The Great War of Our Time,” he predicts: “As a nation we must be prepared. If we are not, we will, with certainty, face another devastating attack on our homeland.”

So we were getting settled after the bad news out of Morganton, Charleston and a number of other locales struck by disturbing events. And then here came another one, this one here at home.

Domestic disputes normally build up to only anger and shouting. But a long-simmering dispute in a neighborhood between Jonesville and Clingman erupted into house- and car-burnings, gunfire and a manhunt worthy of a bad movie or TV show.

It left a deputy sheriff shot in the shoulder, a sheriff shot at, others hit and taken for medical care, and the protagonist shot to death. And it happened just two days after the Morganton teen was hauled to jail.

Of course shootings are not new around here. Even Rebel flag-waving types like the alleged Charleston shooter — minus the murders — are not new.

For instance, my boss in Morganton one time declared publicly ahead of time that we at the newspaper there would not report on a Sunday-afternoon Klan march downtown.

But anyone paying any attention to the confluence of frightening events of late as well as other disturbing news has to sit and wonder. What is going on?

An Internet video from the Bethel Road area shooting near Jonesville was telling. In it, Kimberly Martinez described how she feared for her life during the six-hour ordeal.

“That’s when I started getting worried,” she said. “That there was a man with a gun and shooting people with me with my children and my mom in the house.”

She expressed relief that the threat passed and the gunman taken down. And then she expressed what many of us here in the hometown are feeling these days:

“But it’s not going to guarantee that there’s not any more.”

These things are supposed to happen elsewhere. They don’t happen here.

So what’s going on around here?

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

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