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Paradise Almost Lost

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ATLANTA GA - DECEMBER 04:  Fans of the Auburn Tigers cheer against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4 2010 in Atlanta Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA GA - DECEMBER 04: Fans of the Auburn Tigers cheer against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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For many, Auburn is an idealistic place. Just entering the city limits brings back memories of youth. Whether it was the first time you tasted a beer or met your first true love. Auburn has always been that special place, where as the years pass, the memories become even more perfect.

Auburn people put this community on a pedestal and deservedly so. The actions of one cowardly visitor Saturday night will not change Auburn. It will always be something special to us.

However, as our world changes, so too must Auburn. We send our kids to the Loveliest Village because it's safe and it provides an excellent education. What we can't guard against is what intrudes this special world.

Auburn lost three good people Saturday night. More than football players, they were Auburn students. They were part of our family.

This crime was not committed in some run down trailer park. It happened in an upscale apartment complex. It was committed not by a student, but rather a low-life punk with a criminal record, who thought by killing three innocent people, he would somehow be more of a man.

Instead, he'll spend the rest of his life being someone's bitch at a maximum security prison. Despite the gloomy future, this loser still gets the better end of the stick. Life is not fair.

Today we have three families who are trying to pick up the pieces from something they'll never get over. I think about the pride they must have felt the day their sons received that scholarship or that acceptance letter to Auburn.

None of us can grasp the pain they feel now.

We all hurt today. Auburn will forever be our special town - our slice of heaven in this sometimes cruel world. Despite its nearly 200 year existence, Auburn lost some of its innocence Saturday.

Saying it's forever changed may be a little strong. But undoubtedly things will be different. The tragic shootings should serve as a wake-up call to community leaders. This sleepy college town must make protecting our kids its top priority.

While not always comfortable, Auburn needs more of a police presence around campus. Until Saturday, protection was more than adequate. Now times have changed forever.

We cannot allow Auburn to follow in the footsteps of other once great Alabama cities that now have surrendered parts of its community to street thugs. I know we'll never let that happen.

I hope you'll take time out of your day to say a prayer for these three men and their families. Take time to pray for the wounded. They are all Auburn people. They are our family.

God be with them.