I’m certain there’s nothing I can add that would help make any further sense of the terrible shooting last week at Mother Emanuel. For just about anybody, that would seem a virtually impossible task. But civic, law enforcement and religious leaders have done a great job overall of providing exactly that. They’ve provided it in addition to calm reassurance, heartfelt expressions of grief, efficient apprehension of the suspect, and the fostering of the commonality of our shared background, values, faith, acceptance and forgiveness.
I liked the words of the Rev. Sidney Davis at a community prayer service held at the Second Presbyterian Church the Thursday after the shooting who, in reference to the Book of Job, basically reminded us one can only find peace through acceptance, that we came into the world with nothing, will leave with nothing, that the Lord giveth and taketh away, and that all we can do in response is offer blessings and praise, because to do otherwise (in this case) would be a capitulation and surrendering to evil.
I like what the Rev. Norvel Goff had to say from the pulpit during a televised Sunday morning service from Mother Emanuel itself when confronted with the question as to why people haven’t taken to the streets and rioted. It’s because, he said (paraphrasing), we choose other ways to deal with such inflammatory problems in Charleston and that those who should think otherwise obviously don’t know us very well.
No, they certainly don’t, as evidenced by not only this but the Walter Scott case.
I’d like to think that a native Charlestonian could never do something so ghastly as what happened eight nights ago. Of course, there are bad people everywhere and that may be wishful thinking, but I’m relieved that the suspect is from the Lexington area and that, as Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said, he didn’t learn to hate in Charleston.
Although a terrible blot on our history, the reaction by all people to this most heinous of crimes — but particularly the reaction of the African-American community — has been an astounding model of peace, grace, forgiveness, tranquility and dignity that should be an example for the rest of the country to witness, if not the world.
Evil could never usurp as much, and that’s why we’ll continue moving forward. Perhaps, because of what Charleston is, it has inadvertently accelerated change in that direction.
I’ve been rotating through the seasons in Charleston a long time and still get surprised how cold and dank it can get in the winter and how miserably hot it can get in the summer.
Take a week ago Monday, for example. I happened to be in Nantucket, where several generations of Gilbreths have been fortunate enough to escape for vacation dating well back into the 1800s. According to an official source, the high in Charleston was 99 degrees with a reported heat index of about 108. Meanwhile, a rainy cold front had settled over Nantucket and the official high for the day was — check this out — 61 degrees, a nearly 40-degree difference, although the temperature gauge in the car never showed anything higher than 59.
I had only been up there briefly and missed the onset of the heat wave here in Charleston, which was still fired up with intensity when I returned home the next day, a Tuesday. Of course, I knew what I was in for, but still choked in amazement when blasted by that withering dampness which is only truly understood in real time by actually feeling, breathing and experiencing it.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at email@example.com.