The following remarks were delivered at St. James Episcopal Church on May 26th.
This time, it just feels different. There are so many more people than ever before, coming to me and expressing the devastating loss of hope.
I keep thinking about the parents. Seeing the pictures of the parents.
Diane and I have three girls, one of them has gifted us Remy. She’s four years old and I see her eyes in the pictures of the children who were so senselessly slaughtered.
The unspeakable horror comes first for me. The almost debilitating anger is close behind and it lingers.
Children in Uvalde, Black shoppers in Buffalo, Jews in Pittsburgh, Muslims in Quebec, gays and lesbians in Orlando, Hispanics in El Paso, Asian American women in Atlanta.
I’m just so tired.
What do we tell one another? What do we tell our children?
There are some things I know:
The real danger here is not the evil, because we know that evil exists. When it appears, we can be horrified and angry, but we cannot be surprised. We know there is evil around us.
The real danger is that we give up and give in to that evil.
This is not normal and we cannot accept it as normal or unavoidable.
And we must fight back against evil. To do this, we must believe there is hope.
But how and where do we find that hope? When we are so sad, so angry, and so tired?
Thank you, to this Church.
It helps to gather us as a family.
To pray together is important.
To hug and comfort each other is necessary.
Many will find hope in this gathering in this place.
But that’s not enough for us all.
I think we each need to find our hope in different places and in different ways.
I find my hope in Remy’s eyes. If I don’t fight for Remy, who will? I know Remy is counting on me, on us, to fight for her.
I love that tonight’s organizers are ending this program by providing us pens, paper and envelopes and inviting each of us to write a letter to our elected officials demanding their action to end the violence. Writing such letters is, in itself, an act of hope.
The Governor yesterday said we should focus on mental health.
I don’t think that’s enough. There are more and better things to do. But you know what? He’s not entirely wrong.
I believe that the arc of justice will bend to ensuring that someday there are background checks at gun shows, and on the internet, just as there are in gun stores, because there’s no effective difference. I believe someday we will have red flag laws that help ensure that guns do not end up in the hands of those that should not have guns. I will continue to fight these fights.
And we should do more to intervene and help those battling mental health challenges. In recent years, the State has utterly abdicated its responsibility to fund and provide programs and support, housing, and services, to address this issue.
If the Governor is telling us that this has finally become a cleared lane, then let’s at least do that. What a wonderful victory that would be. When I write my letter tonight, I will demand that the State adequately and substantially fund mental health interventions and treatment – and not a penny, or a person, less.
We should look to find hope wherever each of us can find it.
Tonight, I need hope. We need hope. We must find hope, build hope, and practice hope.
Because, no matter how sad, angry or tired we are, we must continue to fight evil and never give up.
Over two million people statewide are experiencing power outages, including many thousands of Austinites who have been without power since last night. Not knowing when power will be restored makes dealing with this challenge much more difficult and scary.
The State’s electric grid operator is working to address the power issues we are facing, but we do not yet know when they can end these required outages. We should plan and take action on the possibility that we will have continued power outages for some time.
For those who still have power, the best thing we can all do is conserve as much energy as possible so the state grid operator can restore power to our neighbors as soon as possible. Turn down thermostats to 68 degrees or lower if you can, turn off lights and unplug any appliances or electronics that are not being used, and do not run large appliances if you do not have to.
For those experiencing a power outage, your home is still the safest place to be if you can bundle up and keep warm. If you believe you cannot stay safe and warm in your home, a warming center has been set up at Palmer Events Center. Other cold weather shelters are being set up in different parts of the city for people who are at risk and without a safe place to stay during this emergency. You can call the City’s cold weather hotline at 512-305-ICEE (4233), to get the most up-to-date information about warming and cold weather shelters.
It is likely that homes that still have power today will continue to have power tonight. People who are fearful they cannot stay safe and warm at home can consider staying with family or friends that have power. However, it is not very safe to drive our streets right now, and we are still experiencing spread of COVID-19 in our community. Individuals should consider COVID and travel risks along with the risk of remaining home during these frigid conditions and without power.
If you believe you must travel to Palmer Events Center or another home with power, make sure you have a plan and prepare to get safely to your destination and avoid travel after dark. Bring extra warm clothing, blankets, water, and snacks. When you arrive at your destination, be sure to maintain social distancing, wear a face covering as much as you can, and wash your hands frequently.
The power outages and technical issues have caused our city’s 311 system and austintexas.gov website to be unavailable. We are asking everyone to not call 911 unless it is an immediate emergency to help keep those lines free for those who need it
Once again, Austinites are rising to the occasion to help their neighbors. Many of our community partners are stepping up to help with food and blanket donations, volunteering to staff overnight shelters, and working to provide hotel vouchers for the coming nights.
- Austin Area Urban League launched an emergency donation drive called Love Thy Neighbor Texas , and is accepting monetary donations at www.aaul.org.
- If you want to donate a warm blanket, Front Steps is accepting blankets at their downtown location, or you can order the blanket online and have it shipped directly to the shelter. Learn more: https://frontsteps.org/get-involved/annual-blanket-drive/
- The Central Texas Food Bank will remain closed Monday due to the weather. However, if you are in need of food in coming days, you are encouraged to dial 2-1-1 or visit 211texas.org to get in touch with Texas Health and Human Services.
This weather-related emergency is frustrating, and for many people it’s scary. Please check on friends and loved ones if you can, especially those who may be older or more vulnerable. Stay aware and prepared by checking the news and official city social media for updates – we will get you information as soon as it becomes available.
This is one of those “perfect storm” moments that’s barely imaginable. Except that it’s here. Now it’s up to all of us to take care of each of us.
We’re all in this together. Be safe.
Austin has only received enough vaccines for less than 2% of our population. It is simply not enough – even for our Phase 1A (first responders) or Phase 1B (medically vulnerable). I hear and share the frustrations Austinites, especially those who are “1B”, but we ask for your continued patience until the Federal and State governments distribute more vaccine doses. Please continue to pre-register into the system (so you’re alerted when your turn comes): vaccine pre-registration here. But if you do not have internet, or the website is simply not working for you, please call 3-1-1 to register for the vaccine.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is the vaccine free for everyone?
A: Yes, the vaccine for COVID is free for the insured and uninsured, and available regardless of immigration status.
Q: I pre-registered online, why haven’t I received an email or an appointment?
A: If you have pre-registered with APH but did not receive an email or an appointment, it is due to one of the following 3 reasons:
- You are not eligible – or not in Phase 1A or Phase 1B.
- You are eligible but not highest priority within those groups.
- You are eligible and in the highest priority group, but appointments are filled.
Q: I received my first shot from my doctor, can I get my second shot at APH?
- No. If you have already received the first round of vaccine from your healthcare provider, you must return to the original provider for the second dose once it is available to them.
Q: Do I need to take a Covid test to register for the vaccine?
A: No. The testing option on the website is separate from the vaccine registration. However, if you suspect you have Covid, you should seek testing before getting the vaccination.
Q: How do I log back in?
A: Some people have reported difficulty logging back in. If you have difficulty logging back into your account, under User Name, add “.aph” to the end of your email address (example: email@example.com). Austin Public Health says this should resolve the issue.
Below are more resources regarding vaccine eligibility, pre-registration and distribution.