For two weeks we all sat in the same room hearing about the death of two young men, the shootings of two others, a robbery and a pistol whipping. The families of people shot and killed sat right next to the family of the person accused of the shootings. Jurors sat and listened and took notes. These people, who work on computers, at Wendy’s, these doctoral students, and sports editors, suspended their lives for a while and listened carefully to tragedy. I defended the person accused, and argued and argued and argued with the prosecutor. We all struggled with what should be done about this horrendous event. After the jury spoke their verdict, the family members had the opportunity to address the judge, and the rest of us. The family of the accused expressed their unconditional love and support for their beloved son, grandson, cousin, and friend. The families who lost their children expressed their unspeakable loss. The mother said her son was an A.P. student athlete, heading to college, a peacemaker and loving person. Her grief swept across us all like a tsunami, and we sat stunned, immobilized by her tears. A father talked about his son’s hard work with him repairing cars, and incredible sense of humor. He thanked everyone there, the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the jurors … He said that it is a shame we all had to come together like this, “we should have all been out playing softball somewhere.” He was forgiving and asked for peace, and told us that is the only path toward healing. A sister of a person killed mourned her brother, and she mourned that she will never laugh again the way she used the laugh, or smile the way she used to smile. She mourned the loss of herself.

For that little bit of time, we all shared their suffering. We held them with our respect and attention, and let them pour their hearts into ours. Maybe there was some healing, maybe there was not, but we are all now connected in a strange and unalterable way.

I got to talk to the sister after the hearing was over. She thanked me for how I handled the case for the person who killed her brother. I told her that she still had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.