Gun violence wounds not only the body but the spirit and the soul of the victims, said Dr. Jason Smith, the chief medical officer at UofL Health, during a gathering at the Cathedral of the Assumption April 28.
Such violence takes a “small piece” of each person in the community as well, he said.
Smith was one of several speakers at “Broken Hearts, Anxious Minds: Commitment to a Healthy Community,” an interfaith event organized by the Center for Interfaith Relations. It aimed at promoting healing following widespread violence across the city, including the mass shooting Easter Monday at Old National Bank.
Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre led the opening prayer and thanked the congregation, including diverse faith and civic leaders, for their presence.
“We come together with broken hearts and anxious minds and yet I know and believe, hopeful spirits. May that hope empower us,” Archbishop Fabre said.
He prayed that God would “Heal us, restore us, unite us, give us sincere hearts that make us open and willing to encounter, ready to listen, ready to work together.”
The gathering included music and a variety of speakers from different faith traditions, as well as Dr. Smith of UofL Health, who treated victims of the Easter Monday shooting.
A surgeon at UofL for 15 years, Smith spoke about scars and the healing process, explaining that he deals with scars every day.
“No matter how good I am, no matter how much technology I have, how my team works with me, the simple fact of the matter is: I cannot put the body back together the way our creator made it,” he said.
Though he sees “horrific wounds,” he said, more often than not he sees “small, physical external wounds that do not foretell of the devastation that’s occurring inside the body. … Those wounds carry into the spirit and the soul of the individual. They take a small piece of them.”
Gun violence “has the ability to take that from not just the victim, but it takes that from the family members.”
It also takes from the community, he said, noting that among those affected are police, other first responders, the nurses who comfort families and the surgeon who delivers the news that a victim has died, he said.
Survivors of gunshot wounds — and the people in their orbit — are left scarred, Smith said.
“I have scars. … You all have scars. By being here today, you acknowledge that you have been impacted and you feel what has been occurring in this community,” said Smith to his listeners.
When he speaks to those who’ve physically healed from gun violence, Smith said he tells them it’s okay to focus on those scars for a time because it’s part of the healing process.
“I also tell them that after a period of time, … it will be a call to action,” he said.
That call to action is different for each individual, he said: Some decide to walk away from a life of violence, some seek healing from addiction and some become advocates, hoping the lesson they learned can keep others from suffering what they did.
“I ask you each to look at your own scars and ask yourself, ‘How am I going to be an advocate for this community? What is my call to action?’ ” said Smith.
Mayor Craig Greenberg, who attended the event with his wife Rachel Greenberg, spoke about restoring faith in the community.
While there’s no “one cure or one cause” for the violence, he believes a loss of faith is a factor, the mayor said.
“Too many people have lost faith” — faith in other people, in the future, in society and in themselves, he said. “Too often that leads to hopelessness desperation and tragedy.
“We must work together to restore people’s faith and to provide hope and opportunities for everyone,” the mayor said.
He urged those present to start forming relationships by meeting and talking to people who don’t “look like you and who might be from a different part of the city,” he said.
Forming those connections will, over time, strengthen and heal the community and make it safer, he said.