Ann Patchett helps Nashville cry with books and dogs.
On Tuesday, the novelist shared that her bookstore, Parnassus Books, was open to the community following the mass shooting at the Covenant School, which claimed the lives of three children and three adults.
As the team closed the store following Monday’s tragedy, an event planned for families and their dogs to celebrate Dav Pilkey’s latest outing Dog Man went ahead as scheduled on March 28, providing the bereaved with an opportunity to move on and hopefully create opportunities for healing.
“We just want to send our love to our friends, neighbors and clients at Covenant School down the street,” an emotional Patchett, holding her dog Sparky VanDevender, said in a video shared to Twitter. “We are not here to sell you books. We are here because we love you and we are your friends and we are a place to come. We want you here with us. So if you don’t know what to do today and you don’t know where to go, come here and be with us and hold a dog and just know that we care.
Patchett, who was recently awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Joe Biden, echoed those sentiments to Yahoo Life while addressing the importance of creating safe havens for grieving communities.
“One of the many wonderful things about independent bookstores is that they give us a place to be,” she says. “We celebrate in Parnassus, we dance, we launch wonderful books, we have story-time readings. Today we cry.”
“Sometimes you need a place to go when you are alone or with your family or want to meet friends,” she adds. “Sometimes you need a place to go when you want to hide, when you can’t imagine what might make you feel better, when you don’t feel like being alone. Sometimes it’s enough to hold a book or hold a dog. Sometimes you go to a bookstore because you’re looking for a particular book and sometimes you go to a bookstore because it’s the only place you can think of that makes sense.
Sarah Arnold, director of marketing and communications for Parnassus, was present at the store when news of the shooting broke. She remembers the stress her team felt when they realized the tragedy had happened at the Covenant School, where many of their clients had personal connections.
“We were all in shock. You don’t know what to do with yourself and you feel pretty helpless,” she told Yahoo Life. “Since our opening in 2011, we’ve always aimed to be not just a bookstore, but a gathering place for the community, whether it’s at author events or for something like our Dog Man party. Every day we want to be a place where people can meet and feel happy and at peace with other readers.
That’s why, says Arnold, she and Patchett thought it was important to open their doors to other bereaved people in order to show unity and compassion and to set an example so that other small businesses can also do their part.
“Small businesses are unique because we have such strong community ties,” says Arnold. “It’s really important at times like these to reach out to your community and hold them close, and let them know that you have a space where they can just be. We are in a unique position to be able to do that. »
That was especially clear on Monday, when Arnold and his team found themselves center stage as rows of fire engines lined their street. Even more moving was the fact that Parnassus was close to the reunification center, where parents had to wait to be reunited with their children.
“That’s why we made the decision to close [on Monday]“, she explains, “out of respect for what had happened to these families who lost loved ones, and also just to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles and parents trying to find their children” .
“But today we are back,” she notes. “We want to be that place where people can come and let kids be kids for a minute, let parents feel like their kids can have fun in public, and give parents a minute of peace too.”
As for Patchett, she says just being there right now for those in need is the most important thing.
“We love our community in joy and in sorrow,” she told Yahoo Life. “We just want you to know that you are welcome here, today and every other day, at Parnassus and all other bookstores. I’m the spokesperson for independent bookstores, so I feel comfortable saying this: no matter where you are, we want you here with us.
“Reach out to your community and let them know you’re there and you care,” adds Arnold. “That’s really all we can do at the moment.”
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