Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway is in a relationship with his city. A communication strategist, freelance writer, and author of "I'm a Memphian," he can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

Conaway: How can a place so warm and soulful in so many ways be so cold and soulless

By Published: September 29, 2018 4:00 AM CT

Thursday night, Memphis took a bullet.

The city was taking a walk Downtown – like more and more people are doing again, because more and more people are working there, playing there, living there – because more and more people are visiting, and interested, and encouraged, and excited – because more and more people are feeling the energy in the current, in the air.

The city was taking a walk Downtown – just a walk from a party in Loflin Yard – a newly imagined space off South Main, forgotten and reclaimed and reborn – to home in The Goodwyn – a newly imagined space on Madison, forgotten and reclaimed and reborn.

The city was taking a walk Downtown – and somebody took a gun and took something vital away from loved ones and friends, from neighbors and colleagues, from everyone in this city and beyond.

The city fell on a Downtown sidewalk last night, mortally wounded.

Phil Trenary was the city, not simply because he was CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, or a thoughtful, capable, accomplished leader, or known and loved and respected by so many, but because his violent death and the senseless loss of a human being on our streets is the very image of this city he fought so hard to overcome, the horrific irony that is Memphis.

How can a place so warm and soulful in so many ways be so cold and soulless to take so many lives over so little.

We do not hear the gunshots or all the names of those who die, or recognize them if we do, but they mattered. We do not extol their virtues or mourn their loss citywide, but they were part of us whoever they were, beating hearts gone in a breath, in the final revolution of a bullet.

Phil Trenary was a good man, a champion of his adopted city, and we will in the coming days hear much of why that is true, and hopefully find the truth of how he died and at whose hand, and capture the killer.

Perhaps he’ll be the champion of something else. Perhaps the bright light we shine on this tragedy will shine bright enough for us to see the problem, to realize that this isn’t about criminals and jails and guns: this is about the hopelessness and ignorance that pulls the trigger.

The target of that kind of rage can be anyone.

We wish Godspeed to Phil Trenary, and the kind of peace that comes from understanding his city, to all of us in it.


Phil Trenary Greater Memphis Chamber Downtown Memphis

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