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America Divided: Consequences and hope that shines in the darkness

America Divided: Consequences and hope that shines in the darkness

It's been almost 6 months since Tom Elsman got the worst phone call any parent could ever receive after his daughter, a recent Portage Central High School graduate, was killed in a lone-wolf attack that made headlines around the world.

Elsman weighs in on the grief that so many other families share and shows the glimmer of hope in all of this.

Elsman said, "It's Sunday, it's Mass. I mean all of the places you'd think would be safe. No."

Deep in the heart of Texas, hundreds of hearts are breaking this week.

The massacre at a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, preceded by the terror attack in lower Manhattan, preceded by the bloodbath on the Las Vegas strip left almost one hundred dead.

All of those attacks almost within one month.

"It makes you sick. It really does," Elsman said. "You think to yourself, ‘Is society as a whole falling apart? Why does this happen? Why do people keeping doing this?"

Elsman knows just how those families feel. Another attack in 2017 changed his life forever.

Police in New York City said Richard Rojas was high on drugs and suicidal when he drove his car onto a crowded sidewalk in Times Square on May 18.

Dozens were run over and critically injured before he crashed his car and charged at horrified bystanders, but only one person was killed; Alyssa Elsman, 18, Tom’s daughter.

To make matters worse, Tom feels the city of New York hadn't properly secured the single biggest tourist attraction in the world. Barricades to keep cars off the sidewalks where Alyssa was killed were only installed after the fact.

Elsman said, "I know what could have happened in New York. I know what could have happened and I’ve seen what could have happened and they missed it."

As Tom's life resumes without his oldest child, he keeps busy running a local bar and taking care of his other kids and while he knows there is no way to make sense of what happened, he is trying to solve another mystery.

His daughter Ava survived the attack and this unidentified blond woman may have helped.

Elsman said, "She was there from the beginning. She was there when my daughter passed,” Tom said. “and then she went looking for my other daughter.”

She seemingly appeared out of nowhere right after the attack and stayed by Ava's side. Then she disappeared back into the crowd.

For now, she is known only to Tom as "the lady in the white pants" and he wants her to know how grateful he is.

He said, "I just want to say, ‘Thank you.’ You were a saint in a day of darkness for my whole family. You were there."

Elsman also said we need to a better job of identifying and treating the mentally ill, before another tragedy, the likes of which we've seen so many times, happens again.

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