I have a blog post in the hopper about how much I love – and am going to miss – Auburn, Alabama.  I planned to publish it in a few weeks on the eve of our move to Durham, but events of the past two days have caused me to move up a portion of it.

By now, nearly everyone knows about the horrific shooting at the University Heights apartment complex in Auburn on Saturday night that took the lives of three people, including former AU football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips.  Current offensive lineman Eric Mack was wounded, but is expected to fully recover.  Police have a capital murder warrant out for the suspect, who is believed to be somewhere in the Montgomery area.

I was shocked to hear this news for two reasons.  First of all, I knew Ed and Ladarious a little bit from when they would come through the compliance office while I was a graduate assistant there.  Despite my very limited interaction with them, it was apparent that they were great guys who were polite, funny, and level-headed.  Basically, they were the last people you’d expect to be gunned down in an argument gone bad, although it appears they weren’t the instigators.

Secondly, this is the first murder I can remember occurring in Auburn in the two years I’ve lived there.  There’s a reason Auburn has been lauded as one of America’s best places to live; in addition to being pedestrian-friendly, having good schools, being home to some kickass barbecue joints, etc., it’s a place where something like this simply doesn’t happen.  When I was living in Charlotte it was easy to become numb to news of violent crime; in Auburn, it’s truly jarring.

I have never lived in a community that could rally and come to the aid of people in need like Auburn does.  Everyone pitches in and does everything in their power to help tornado victims, poisoned trees, and anyone else who may be down on their luck.  I may not be in Auburn at the moment – I’m writing this while on vacation in Carolina Beach, N.C. – but I already know what will happen in the wake of this tragedy: people will put aside their differences and shower the university, the athletic department, and the devastated young men on the football team with the love and support they will need to move past this.

Auburn is very fond of using the phrase “all in.”  I suppose it originated with football, asking the Auburn Family to be “all in” in its support.  But it really goes beyond that.  Before moving to Auburn I’d never lived in a true college town before, and I can say that the sense of camaraderie in the town is inspiring.  The community supports the university unequivocally and wholeheartedly, and the university reciprocates with unimaginable amounts of public service to help those in need.

Today, it’s the football team and the victims’ families that are in need of someone to lean on, and the Auburn Family will certainly be “all in” and gladly oblige.

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