Christine Stuart photo

“Post Nubila Phoebus,” the saying embroidered on the Hartford Police Chief’s patch, means “after the clouds, the sun.” The phrase, pointed out by Hartford’s City Manager Lee Erdmann, became the theme of the discussion at the Charter Oak Cultural Center Wednesday night as community leaders and residents continued to find ways to heal and feel safe in their community after the past few weeks of violence and indifference in the Capitol City made national news.

The community conversation was the continuation of the candlelight vigil held in Bushnell Park last week, almost a month after the beating of former deputy mayor Nick Carbone and the hit-and-run of 78-year-old Angel Torres on Park Street dealt a swift blow to the city’s confidence

Rev. Shelly Copeland, one of the five panelists Wednesday, said she’s taking time to grieve. “People are quick to want to take action and not give into the pain,” Copeland said. Using Greek literature as his reference, Rev. Cornell Lewis said, “Within that pain there is a solution.”

Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts said technology is hindering people’s sensitivity to the world and that lack of sensitivity, in addition to the loss of a moral compass, is not just in Hartford, “it’s in any metropolis.”

“We need to be nice to each,” Roberts said. He said by opening doors for old ladies we’re setting an example for our children to follow. “We have to get back to the basics,” he said. He said Hartford should be focusing on the positive. 

“We often talk about what’s bad in Hartford. I challenge you to talk about what’s good in Hartford,” Robert added.

But it’s hard for Carlos Hernandez Chavez not to be a cynic. A Hartford resident for more than 40 years Chavez said as he was driving to the forum Wednesday night a young black girl in her early teens got off the sidewalk and walked into the road right in front of his car. “It was if I didn’t exist,” he said. “It was as if I was at fault for driving on her street.”

Chavez said the girl looked at him with “anger.” “Young people are becoming the victimizers,” he said. 

As Chavez concluded his statements he looked at the few dozen people in the audience and said, “I can’t help, but notice the overwhelmingly white audience.” He said he would have liked to see more people from his neighborhood there.

Angel Arce, the son of Angel Torres, the 78-year-old paralyzed by the hit-and-run on Park Street, said his family and his father don’t blame the City of Hartford for what happened to him. He said as he was standing outside the center waiting for the event to start a friend drove by and stopped to ask if the police had caught anybody yet. Arce answered “no.” He said the person criticized the quality of the camera, which captured the event. He said the person was quick to find blame, but “what if those cameras weren’t there?” He urged the audience to be part of the solution to help the police find the person. “Stop blaming everybody else,” Arce said.

Arce also pointed out that he didn’t see anyone at the forum who was from his neighborhood. One person in the audience yelled “They weren’t invited.”

Attorney Jeffrey Dressler said the forum just wasn’t advertised properly and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. He said the group should be sharing our hurt and planning our next steps. “This is Hartford, The Greatest City in the World.”

Hartford resident Sally Levering said the group should be thinking about one thing they do for Hartford when they go home. She also said the city needs to start remembering all of its victims, not just a select few. Levering said she had befriended 20-year-old Joel Hightower shortly before he became the city’s 12th homicide of the year.

“The fact that we forget most of the victims perpetuates the cycle,” Levering said. “The other kids recognize that their friend, brother, or father is not being remembered.”