DALLAS, TX 06/22/2016 Dallas artist and community activist, Karen Blessen, along with young people from 29 Pieces, an inner city arts arts initiative, presented at Dallas city hall on June 22, 2016. Participating members of 29 Pieces asked the willing to sign a pledge committing to respect and peace when beset by adversity. Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and city councilmember Adam McGough were in attendance. Credit: Danny Fulgencio

Adam McGough in City Council chambers. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

When Councilman Adam McGough headed to the Lake Highlands Exchange Club meeting this morning, it felt eerily reminiscent to him of the Friday in September 2014 when the ebola virus scare was weighing heavily on the city, and people weren’t sure what to think, how to respond, or whether a weekly neighborhood gathering should go on as usual.

At the time, McGough was Mayor Mike Rawlings’ chief of staff; now he is Lake Highlands’ councilman. After spending most of last night at City Hall and Baylor hospital, and on only an hour of sleep, McGough did go to the Exchange Club meeting as usual today, sharing what information he could with his neighbors who also showed up, and who were anxious for more details on last night’s horrific shootings that took the lives of five Dallas Police and DART officers and injured seven other officers, as well as two civilians.

We saw him a couple of hours later, exhausted but determined to follow through with a previously scheduled interview for a story on his first year or so in office, which will run in August’s magazine. The original plan was for us to accompany him afterward on a Skillman-Audelia foot patrol with the Dallas Police Department. That didn’t happen, for obvious and tragic reasons.

McGough’s phone began blowing up at the end of his 8- and 9-year-old sons’ soccer practice last night. They headed home for dinner, and at first he thought he might stay there. He worried that he would be in the way if he went Downtown. So he called Scott Goldstein, Rawlings’ current chief of staff.

“I just said, ‘Can I help?’ Because I know where he is.” That’s when McGough learned that at least one of the officers was confirmed dead.

“When he said that … I can’t sit anywhere,” McGough says.

He headed to 1600 Marilla, to the basement room acting as mission control as the events played out. Other councilmembers found their way there, too — Monica Alonzo, Adam Medrano, Tiffinni Young, Carolyn King Arnold, Erik Wilson.

“I’m not really sure why” they all congregated, McGough says. “Maybe the same thing — you just felt like you needed to be there.”

As more information came in, the news worsened — four officers slain. Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown headed to Parkland hospital to be present with the officers and families there, while McGough, Medrano and Young, who are part of the council’s Public Safety Committee, traveled to Baylor, where McGough is a volunteer chaplain.

As soon as the councilmembers walked in the doors of the emergency room, they learned a fifth officer had died. They huddled in corners and prayed with police and their families. They also respected the wishes of some who wanted to be left alone in their grief.

McGough was home by the time his three children woke up this morning. His older boys had heard the reports on the radio the night prior, and his eldest had clung tightly as McGough walked out the door to head to City Hall. He was elated to find his father had returned and began peppering him with questions.

The councilman chokes up, and we with him, as he explains why he doesn’t hide the harsh, and sometimes heartbreaking, realities of his job from his children.

“I want them to get it,” he says, a tear slipping down his cheek. “I want them to know why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

His 9-year-old is one of those “socially aware, emotionally intelligent” kids, he says, the kind who will observe someone in a parking lot and say, “Hey, that guy over there is hurting. How can we help him?”

How does he explain to him the kinds of tragic events that have unfolded this week, not only in our city but across the country?

“I let him lead,” McGough says, not telling him more than he asks, and sometimes drawing the line even when he does.

“And then, we pray a lot.”