A friend who moved far away a while back called Sunday to share Charleston’s heartache.
Among the nice things he said was this fitting tribute to the nine local residents fatally shot at Emanuel AME Church four nights earlier: “From everything I’ve read and seen about them, they were such good people.”
Well, they were at a place of worship for a Bible study.
And after all, that is the Good Book.
So today, rather than further fussing and fretting about conflicting opinions on flags, history, insidious Internet influences, gun laws, talk radio, Fox News and so many other divisive topics, review the unifying examples set by those “such good people.”
The only one I knew was state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, and that was only from periodic chats about public-policy issues and editorial-staff endorsements.
Yet I do know some people who knew not just Pinckney but some of the other victims quite well.
And as ripple effects of wide-ranging grief persist, take a break from political debates to ponder those nine “such good people.”
Go back and read — or reread — the moving profiles of them in the special section wrapped around Sunday’s paper.
A few facts from those brief bios that show why so many consider those dearly departed “such good people”:
Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54, worked for more than three decades in the Charleston County Public Library system, rising to become manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library. Along the reading-promoting way, she expanded services for children at the little John Dart branch on King Street and began an evening program there for nearby residents.
Susie Jackson, 87, had two children. But according to great-nephew Horace Taylor Jr., she raised roughly 50 people while caring for relatives for generations. She followed this advice from Proverbs, her favorite book of the Bible: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Ethel Lance, 70, was hailed by those who knew her as a joy to be around. A regular at the church’s Wednesday night senior citizen gatherings, she found — and shared — solace from life’s troubles by singing “One Day At a Time,” the old gospel song that goes, “One day at a time, sweet Jesus. That’s all I’m asking of you, just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do.”
DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, as our bio put it, “shared her gift for song with church choirs and congregations throughout the Charleston area.” And that singing voice, “even more than her oratorical skill as a preachers, was what moved people.” A friend pegged Doctor’s compassion as being able to “see right through your pain.”
Tywanza Sanders, 26, aimed to make the barbershop where he worked not just “famous” but “global.” His business cards had “WANZA’S CUTS” on the front and billed himself on the back as an a “aspiring rapper, poet, motivational speaker and entrepreneur.”
Daniel L. Simmons Sr., 74, fought for our country in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart before going into the ministry. The Rev. Joseph Darby, presiding elder of the Beaufort district of the AME Church, said of his friend and colleague: “Dependable that’s how I would describe him, and an excellent administrator. And he had a very good sense of humor.” Simmons’ son, in honor of his father’s passing, cited Romans 15:5 and “the God who gives the power of patient endurance.”
Sharonda Singleton, 45, was a speech pathologist and the girls track coach at Goose Creek High School and a minister at the church. Known for calling students “suga’ pie, suga’ love or just plain suga,’ ” she expected — and got — the best out of not just them but her friends and family.
Myra Thompson, 59, spearheaded the restoration of the church’s parsonage on Rutledge Avenue as leader of the property committee. As our bio pointed it, she and Pinckney “shared a passion for restoring and preserving Emanuel’s historic buildings” and “they worked to strengthen faith, one brick and board at a time.”
Now our community, state and nation seek to strengthen understanding — one day at a time.
Back to Clementa Pinckney, 41. Our Sunday bio included this accurate, glowing assessment of the dedicated pastor/legislator from Senate chamber deskmate Vincent Sheheen: “He was a voice for the voiceless.”
And when this newspaper’s editorial staff endorsed Pinckney for a fourth Senate term in the 2012 general election, we offered this reasoning:
“Pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, he stresses constituent service and calls his senatorial duties ‘an extension of my ministry, an opportunity to meet the needs of the people within our community and state.’ Sen. Pinckney has used that opportunity to positive effect.”
So use the uplifting legacies of those nine “such good people” to positive effects of your own.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.