If I've learned anything in my nearly 10 years at this newspaper, it's this: Bad news - really bad news - is cyclical.
It comes in waves, then it dies down.
But, in recent days, I'm left wondering: At what point does a cycle become something more?
As the body count has risen - at absolutely alarming levels - in Greenwood and the Lakelands in recent weeks, the news has been exceedingly grim. Consider the following incidents, all of which have happened in less than 3 weeks right here in the Lakelands:
* On Oct. 29, six people died in a massacre on the Callison Highway in Greenwood County. Authorities say 27-year-old gunman Bryan Sweatt shot and killed five people - three adults and two children - before turning the gun on himself. The horrifying tragedy drew national attention to Greenwood.
* On Nov. 1, 22-year-old Michael Alex Compton allegedly was stabbed to death in Abbeville. Authorities arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection with the incident.
* Also on Nov. 1, 40-year-old Bradford Phillip Todd, of Florence, was shot dead in Abbeville County in what was ruled a hunting accident. Though the death was ruled accidental, it was another shooting incident that resulted in a fatality. Officials charged Christopher Merck, 53, of Easley, with criminal negligent use of a firearm on Friday.* On Nov. 5, two people died in an apparent murder-suicide that took place across two counties. Authorities said 46-year-old Charles Ray Belcher shot and killed 41-year-old Felicia Yvette Rayford at her home in Hodges. Belcher then allegedly went to his home in Donalds and committed suicide.
* On Nov. 10, Erskine College student and tennis player Dean Harris, 20, was found dead in a dorm room. Officials indicated the tennis standout committed suicide.
n On Monday, 25-year-old Jeremy Ray Jordan, of Abbeville, was found dead on the Little River Bridge in Abbeville County. Officials say he died from a single gunshot wound to the head. In an unbelievable twist, his father, Tony Jordan, was arrested and charged with murder in the case.
* On Wednesday night, the bodies of two women - 33-year-old Elizabeth Brooke Bourne and 38-year-old Danielle Quinn Graham - were discovered at the Extended Stay motel in Greenwood. Both women had been shot to death. Terrance Lamont Thomas, 28, of Greenwood, has been charged with murder in the incident.
* Late Thursday night, 31-year-old Jamaal Antron Aiken was shot and killed at a club on Seaboard Avenue. Alphonso Morgan, 35, of Greenwood, was arrested and charged with murder in connection with Aiken's death.
The tally: Eight incidents, 15 deaths, all in a period of 17 days in the Greenwood-Abbeville area.
God help us.
AS ALL OF THIS HAS UNFOLDED, the reaction from the public has escalated with each death.
Time and time again in the last two weeks, I have seen posts from residents on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere on the Web that essentially amount to "What is happening to our town?" or "What's next?" or "What is going on?"
On Wednesday night, as news of the tragedy at Extended Stay motel was spreading like wildfire online, I received a text from a high-ranking local official. It read: "What is happening in our little town?"
Simply put: I don't know. I wish I had the answers, but I don't.
As this week's events unfolded, I knew I had to address them in my Sunday column. I've often been called on to provide commentary and perspective in the wake of tragic events.
But, at some point, I'm going to run out of words with which to comfort you.
Words aren't enough. We actually have to do something about this.
Now - right now - is a time for action. A time for accountability and responsibility.
First, it is incumbent upon us to make sure people - young and old - understand just how valuable a human life is. That is part of this problem: There are people who simply do not value life.
I literally cannot think of anything more serious than taking someone's life.
When you end another person's life, you are setting off a chain reaction of events that will have ripple effects for generations.
Second, we need to have a conversation about guns. Before you write me a nasty letter, please note I didn't say "We need to take people's guns away." I'm not a gun control activist.
But, at some point, we need to be honest with ourselves: Gun violence is a very, very real problem in Greenwood and surrounding areas. Let's have the conversation, folks. That's all I'm saying.
Third, we need to let Jesus Christ into our hearts, and into this community. Some of you might have a problem with me saying that. I'm just telling you how I feel.
I'm not a Bible-thumper, as those who know me can attest. But, I do know Jesus of Nazareth, and I know this community needs to turn to Him right now.
Lastly, we - you and I, all of us - need to do our part to help slow this down. Look out for your neighbors. Take time to listen to your friends, co-workers and friends.
If you have a friend who is in an abusive, volatile relationship, encourage her to make a change. If you suspect a family member has a problem with drugs, do whatever you can to make sure he gets help.
If you know something that would be critical to a police investigation, call the authorities. If you have information about a crime, say something. You can even do so anonymously by calling Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
We won't change the current trend by fretting about it or talking on Facebook. We'll only change the trend by taking action.
And we have to do it together.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.