Inexplicable, devastating, tragic... pick your own adjective. All apply to the deaths last week of Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson and entrepreneurs Larry and Jane Glazer.
The people most profoundly affected are their families and co-workers, and nothing anybody can say can ease their pain. But all three deaths will have a deep, long-lasting impact on the Rochester community.
Pierson, a dedicated young officer and devoted husband and father, died fulfilling his duty in a career he loved, shot by a parolee who was just weeks out of prison. The violence that killed Pierson is an outgrowth of a culture of violence whose roots Americans still don't fully understand and are far from addressing adequately.
And while that culture of violence is by no means limited to inner cities, or to any race or income level, when a white police officer is killed by an African American, or when an African American is killed by a white police officer, it increases the tension and mistrust between races, and between police officers and a large segment of the community they serve.
As Rochester mourns Pierson's death, it needs to commit itself to grappling more seriously with the roots of the violence that killed him – and that has killed far too many people in Rochester, almost all of them African Americans.
With the deaths of Larry and Jane Glazer, Rochester has lost two entrepreneurs who were successful in their own businesses and intensely committed to the community, giving their money, their time, and their energy, serving as role models and inspiring others in the process.
Jane Glazer founded her company, QCI Direct, in 1983 and built it into a thriving home-products catalog operation with 100 employees: a success story for entrepreneurs, for small businesses, and for women businesses owners. Larry Glazer's Buckingham Properties, which he founded with former partner Harold Samloff in 1970 as a small real-estate operation, has become a major residential and commercial development firm. And most significantly, it has made enormous – literally breathtaking – investments in the City of Rochester, particularly downtown.
Larry Glazer's faith in the city, and in downtown, has played a critical role in spurring the progress that is visible right now. And his death has stunned the large community of people who have been encouraged by his commitment to downtown: residents, businesspeople, other investors, government officials. His company has so many projects in the works, with so much potential.
Answers to "what now?" have to wait, letting his family and staff grieve. But plenty of work is waiting for the rest of the community.
Early this week, Buckingham leaders and staff released a statement expressing thanks for the community's support and saying that they would be available soon to discuss the current projects.
And, they added, Glazer built Buckingham "one brick at a time, over 40 years," and he created a strong company with "multiple departments staffed with strong, experienced leaders."
Buckingham is committed to fulfilling Glazer's legacy, they said, "one brick at a time, in a manner that will continue to make our community, and Larry, proud."
It was a statement of confidence and commitment – important and reassuring. And while the greater community is understandably concerned about the future of massive projects like the development at Midtown, it couldn't be successful if it depended on only one man.
Larry Glazer cannot bear the sole responsibility for the rejuvenation of downtown Rochester. That isn't realistic. And I can't imagine that that was his vision.
Larry Glazer, Jane Glazer, Daryl Pierson: the death of any one of them would shake the community, and there is no silver lining to the back-to-back tragedies that Rochester suffered last week. But there are opportunities. The rest of us have a responsibility to build on what these three have left behind – and to see to it that out of their deaths will come hope. And change.