POTTSTOWN — When the Rev. Nichole Jackson got the pulpit at Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ Sunday, she had two sermons.
The one she had written, and the one that she felt compelled to give after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Saturday night gave a nation already staggering from the year's death toll its worst 24 hours to date.
As she spoke to her parishioners, Jackson said "everyone's heads were nodding in agreement, sorrow and grief."
Speaking at Thursday evening's downtown Pottstown vigil for the victims of those two mass shootings, Jackson said she is tired of giving that sermon.
"I can't tell you exactly how many times I've had to stand up in front of my people and say 'another one,'" Jackson said.
"Another school, another local place that innocent life is lost, but this Sunday I had to stand up and say four — just in this week," Jackson said.
"And we gather her to pray, to have a moment of silence, of meditation, because that is our first line of defense," said Jackson.
"But if it ends there, these are not going to end," she told the crowd of about 25 people gathered at Smith Family Plaza.
"This, us gathering and saying 'not here, not our kids, not in our community,'" is important, she said.
"It's not just one issue. It's not just white nationalism. It's not just mental illness. It's not just guns, it's all of it, Jackson said. "It's part of all of us. And it takes all of us to say not here. Not any more."
According to an analysis by USA Today, The Associated Press and Northeastern University published on Wednesday, the nation "has seen 112 people killed in mass shootings 216 days into the year. That is about one death every other day."
"In 2017, 181 lives were lost in these type of incidents," the newspaper reported, adding, "this analysis uses the FBI definition for mass killings: those in which four or more people were killed, not including the shooter."
"We keep saying let's pray nothing else happens, but our prayers need to lead us to action," said Jackson.
Candles lit, prayers are offered at Pottstown mass shooting vigil in Smith Family Plaza. pic.twitter.com/lReKZdhBeL— Evan Brandt (@PottstownNews) August 8, 2019
This being Pottstown, the ensuring silent meditation was interrupted by the roar of a motorcycle thundering down High Street.
But in some ways, the noise was appropriate, said Bishop Everett Debnam, pastor of Invictus Ministries, who said he wants to hear the nation roar that this is enough.
"Once you finish your prayer, unmute yourself," said Debnam, who is also the chaplain for the Pottstown Police Department.
"Speak loudly against all the injustice," he said. "They want you to be silent. But be loud, be disruptive, let your voice be heard," Debnam said.
One way those at the vigil spoke was with their hands, specifically, writing messages on a banner organizer Janet Feedline made with as many shootings from 2019 as she could find, complete with date, location and number of victims.
"Don't you care? How can you not act?" wrote Stephanie Harris VonWiegen of Sanatoga.
Asked who the message was addressed to she said, "anyone who can help."
Pottstown resident Anna Johnson wrote simply "¡No mas!"
"It has to stop," she told a reporter.
"No war weapons for citizens," wrote John Kennedy. "Do something!"
Mayor Stephanie Henrick urged those there not to lose hope, to remember, "there are still some good people in this world and some of them live in Pottstown."