When the Rev. Mark Tyler learned of the carnage in Dallas, a thought flowed through his grief: That could have been us.
That a gunman just as easily could have fired at the officers who had protected him and the hundreds of protesters he led on a march Wednesday through Center City from the African Methodist Episcopal Church Conference at the Convention Center. A peaceful showing against the killings of black men by police.
"That it could have been our officers," said Tyler, the pastor of the Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Society Hill.
His fears are well-placed.
Because what is this slaughter in Dallas but the absolute worst manifestation of the deep divide - the breakdown in real conversation - tearing away at us as a nation as we grapple with questions of race and violence and the American identity? It is the plainest proof yet that hatred and fear and guns have led us to a culture of retaliation, when we need one of reconciliation.
"It feels like a moment of darkness when there is no hope," Tyler said.
That's exactly how I felt as the news unfolded from Dallas, and the same before that with the news from Baton Rouge, La., and Minnesota.
A black man pinned down by police and killed while selling CDs outside a convenience store. A black man killed by a police officer while legally carrying a gun and obeying police orders. Outrage replaced with exhaustion - two more black men dead at the hands of police. Then Dallas: Five police officers executed and seven more wounded as they rushed into gunfire to protect those protesting against them. Ambushed by a gunman who said he wanted to kill white cops.
Forty-eight hours in America.
After Dallas, a predictable refrain rose from some: "Look at what you did." The rage against the media and those calling for rightful change.
It leads us nowhere. It led us here.
We choose sides. We rage.
We talk past each other, if we talk at all.
If we continue, we lose.
We cannot resign ourselves to this national conversation ending in mass violence.
If you say "All Lives Matter," you must mean it. It can no longer be a charged but meaningless slogan - a retaliation to those who dare suggest that black people need help in the face of cops who disproportionately murder them, without redress.
We can hold two truths.
We can condemn the killing of black men at the hands of police officers while standing together in grief at the murder of those very same public servants.
Like every new American mass slaughter, Dallas has its own backdrop.
The people in the streets just blocks from the plaza where a man armed with a long gun killed President John F. Kennedy were there peacefully. Before the shooting, the Dallas Police Department posted photos of police and protesters together, smiling.
But we live now in a country where it is often easier to kill than it is to talk. Whether it be a gunman seeking to sow terror or a police officer squeezing the trigger too quickly, out of either fear or hatred.
If we want to truly grapple with these questions tearing us apart as a people, we can no longer do it from opposing sides.
"Solutions will be found at the table," Rev. Tyler said. "Not in the streets, throwing things at each other."
Violence and hatred have brought us here, he said. It cannot deliver us. Only through dialogue, only through real conversation, he said, will hope come from this moment of darkness.