A couple of counties to our west, folks there were inundated by a wave of bomb threats. On one day they counted 75 threats made in Catawba, Burke and Caldwell counties. 75!
I took notice because a long time ago I took turns living in both Catawba and Burke counties and worked for newspapers there before I made it back to the hometown in one piece (though barely).
At one of my old haunts, the newspaper office in the Burke County seat of Morganton, they got hit with a threat. They evacuated and law enforcement found nothing.
After five weeks and more than 400 threats, police arrested and charged a suspect described as homeless and who had stayed in shelters there.
When I was there I found folks easy-going and likable, much like the folks here. Although the folks in East Burke did remind me of folks in Traphill. (Sorry. They have their rivals that they like to tease just as we have here.)
Why such an awful thing as bomb threats happened there is a puzzle.
Meanwhile, to our north a bomb threat emptied the Ashe County Courthouse in Jefferson nearly a month ago, and the sheriff there is offering a $1,000 reward still hoping for information.
Why would someone(s) be so mean and so criminal as to phone in bogus threats that intimidate at the worst and in the least disrupt and disturb so many people who are just trying to live their lives in peace and go about their business?
Here in the hometown we like to think of ourselves as protected from the troubles of the world. Surely terror like that in Dallas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris, Bangladesh and other such far-off places couldn’t happen here, we think. Could it?
But then troubles like the bomb threats hit too close to home. And it’s a stark reminder that we’re not immune to the world’s troubles and to something bad happening here as well.
May God protect us from such.
Election years by nature are unsettling, with the changing of leaders and with the reflection and hot debates that lead up to voting. This election year is even more unsettling, what with a rash of violence and threats of violence and even threats of war troubling the nation and the world.
Some are asking what can we do? Is there anything that we can do?
These days I find myself turning to the best source of comfort.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,” begins the book of Isaiah, chapter 40, in the Bible. At this point in the book, the prophet steps aside and lets God speak to us directly.
And how does God offer comfort to his people? “Maintain justice and do what is right,” God instructs in Is. 56:1.
In Morganton the newsroom was just behind the lobby, much like at The Tribune office. In Morganton we newshounds were close enough to hear folks who stepped in to pay their subscription bills or some such and who lingered to chat. If we heard something interesting or someone we recognized, we could go and say hello. I met some good, salt-of-the-earth folks that way.
But among the good folks there also came Justin Sullivan, a 19-year-old who became radicalized, got up a cache of guns and, according to the FBI, planned terror and mass murder before they got to him first. I reported on Sullivan on this page a year ago.
He awaits trial and a possible death penalty.
How can something so awful come out of a community so good? Might it happen here some day?
As you look at the disturbing events around us, take comfort, “maintain justice” in your own little corner of the world, keep your chin up and keep the faith. As they say, this too shall pass.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.
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