OPED: The shattering of peace in Dallas leaves our city in pain

Robert Wilonsky
Tribune News Service
Reunion tower, right, stands with the lights out as the sun rises over downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. Many Dallas business turned out their lights to honor the police killed and wounded in an attack Thursday evening. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

I am sitting at my desk in downtown Dallas. We have been ordered to close the blinds, stay away from the windows. A line of police cars, their headlights off, are streaming, silently, down Young Street, in front of the newspaper.

A Dallas police chopper circles overhead, shining its light into the city streets. Police-car red-and-blues stretch as far as the eye can see, from one end of downtown to another, as officers comb the streets for gunmen who killed four Dallas police officers and one DART officer, wounded several others, and who, according to the chief of police, might have also planted bombs throughout the center of the city.

EDITORIAL: Police shootings 'an American issue'

This city. My city. Our city.

The phone keeps ringing. Producers from FOX and CNN and overseas outlets want to talk about what happened. I tell them to call back. I can't talk. Can't think. Can't process. And I can't stop crying.

My phone just buzzed. A friend texted a photo of the city skyline, above which he wrote, "Pray for Dallas."

Earlier in the night, I thought about going to Belo Garden to cover the rally attended by hundreds protesting the deaths of two men killed this week by police officers. I stayed home instead, waiting for my 12-year-old son to come home from baseball practice, and watched via Twitter, where Dallas police posted photos of officers — one black, one white — posing with a protester carrying a handmade sign reading "No Justice No Peace."

York City's police chief says officers feel under attack

They were all smiles. Another peaceful protest in this city, my city, our city. Well done.

Then came the awful tweets, the horrific videos filled with the pop-pop-pop of automatic fire filling downtown — downtown! — and the reports of officers down. Two, maybe three, maybe six, maybe more. I turned on the TV. Channel 8's anchors said they could hear gunfire outside their windows.

My son, trying to get ready for bed, said he wouldn't be able to sleep, not tonight. I wanted to stay home, hug the boy, try to get him to take a deep breath and tell him he was safe. But I needed to be downtown, which, by Thursday's end, had become The World's Most Awful News Story, at least until the media turns its attention to the latest outrage, the next distraction.

We will spend the next several days burying the dead, mourning and celebrating those gunned down on a night that demanded justice and peace. I cannot fathom what the next days will bring.

Yorkers rally to protest police shootings

As Thursday night melted into Friday morning, Facebook began to send messages: So-and-so is wondering if you're OK during The Violent Crime in Dallas, Texas.

No, I'm not OK.

 — Robert Wilonsky is managing editor of the Dallas Morning News.