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Thousands of Stars
Photo: Nancy Canwell
The shooting that took place at Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon last December came as a great shock to me. My side of the family lives in that area, and we have many good memories of times spent there. It sent chills up my spine when Mom told me that she and Dad had arrived at the mall just an hour-and-a-half before the shooting. They’d planned on spending the afternoon shopping and eating in the food court, where the shooting took place. But a call from Dad’s work took them away from the scene.

When my husband, daughter, and I went to visit my family for Christmas several days after the shooting, we went to the mall for some last minute shopping. As we walked in through the familiar doors, we saw Christmas decorations everywhere, and corridors full of busy shoppers. But something just didn’t feel right. It felt eerie to enter a place where people had been gunned down just days before as they, too, were Christmas shopping.

When I reached the food court area, the eerie feeling changed to a sense of comfort and peace. All along the glass-panel railing were shiny, cutout stars. Not dozens, or hundreds of stars—but thousands of them. On the stars were notes that mall visitors had written to family members of the victims, and to the community in general.

The Messages Were Beautiful

“My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy. God bless.”

“Never Give Up.”

“I could never say how sorry I am for your loss.”

“Dear People, I am so sorry you got hurt. From Haley, age 4.”

“Jesus Christ is our living and only hope.”

“Day by day, hour by hour, minutes by minute, we will get stronger.”

“No one should ever have to carry such a burden or heavy heart. We grieve deeply for your loss. Many prayers are being said.”

“May this event not tear us apart, but instead remind us that tomorrow is never a guarantee. Be thankful for what you have.”

“Stay strong. May God bless this place!”

“We have lost a sister and brother here on earth, but we will see them again with our Father in Heaven”

“Trusting in God’s goodness, even in the midst of this tragedy.”

“I’ve been where you are now. Somehow you will make it, as I did. I pray that God will ease your pain.”

 “He sees your tears. He fights your fears.”

“Jesus wept. John 11:35.”

I was overwhelmed that thousands of people would take the time to go to a table that provided the stars, and write such meaningful messages to people they didn’t even know. I wrote on my own star. It simply said, HOPE.

When I left the mall that evening, I didn’t leave with the same eerie feeling that I had entered with. Instead, I left with the words of Galatians 6:2 running through my mind, “Carry each others burdens….”

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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