Dallas Continues Mourning While Still On Edge

Jul 10, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Apart from the technical work of an investigation, there's the very real and emotional work of coping with a tragedy like this. NPR's Sam Sanders has been on the scene in Dallas since Friday, and he's going to tell us more about that. Sam, thanks so much for being with us.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So what's it like there?

SANDERS: This is a city that is still grieving, and there are visible signs of it throughout the city. You know, several blocks of downtown Dallas are still blocked off for the investigation. And outside of police headquarters in Dallas, there are two squad cars that have become covered with flowers and balloons and notes and candles. People have come to pay their respects right there. And I talked with one woman, Carmen Vasquez - she came last night with two dozen roses, each with a note on it, to lay at those squad cars and to pass out to each officer there.

CARMEN VASQUEZ: They say, you know, back the blue, Dallas PD. Faith, hope and love, which are three things God gave us. And the greatest is love. And that's all I really want to do today, is just spread a little bit of love.

SANDERS: And I've seen that since Friday, people pushing through grief to show their support.

MARTIN: Is there still a sense of the trauma, of the experience of being on edge though?

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. So much of what I'm seeing here is people on edge. There was a shutdown at police HQ last night after various threats, SWAT team sweeps, a suspicious person in a nearby parking garage. And you've been hearing rumors and reports of threats since Thursday. Also, we're still hearing news about the victims. And there's still fear of copycat attacks, so people throughout the city are jumpy. And people are really shocked that this attack happened in Dallas because here, the police have had a really good relationship in the community. For the last few years, they've had lower incidents of use of force, a lower murder rate. This police department was kind of held up as a model for the nation, and lots of folks here in the city had really great relations with them.

MARTIN: To that end, though, a lot of people around the country are having conversations about how the country should move forward. How is that conversation playing out there?

SANDERS: Everyone here is saying the conversation has to be had, but a lot of the folks that I've been speaking with disagree on what that conversation should entail. I talked with Doug Stephan from Irving, Texas, and he said in a place like Dallas, some of the focus should be taken off of race.

DOUG STEPHAN: I think the thing that's causing the divisiveness is the preoccupation with race. I mean, my feeling is that Dallas is not a place that's particularly racist. So why is this happening here?

SANDERS: And I talked with folks of all races who said maybe we should put off that discussion for a bit and just grieve and mourn together.

MARTIN: But I would assume that there are different opinions about that as well.

SANDERS: Exactly. And it varies based on who I talk to, for sure.

MARTIN: But before we let you go, Sam, you know, there's been a lot of focus on the role that social media played in how these events have been perceived by people around the country. And I'm just wondering if what you're seeing in person in Dallas is different from what a lot of people are experiencing online.

SANDERS: It's night and day, Michel. You know, I first heard the news of this attack through Twitter. And what I see on the ground does not match the anger and the vitriol that you see online. I've seen a multi-racial coalition of people come together to grieve together, police officers of all color there to comfort their city. Last night, I saw a white man come to a black woman's side and wipe tears from her eyes. You know, there's a unity and a love that I'm seeing here that you will not see on your iPhone or your TV screen.

MARTIN: That's Sam Sanders. He's in Dallas. Sam, thank you.

SANDERS: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.