United they stood, as we should

People wait in line at Hutson and Meeting streets for the doors to open at TD Arena for the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney early Friday.

The bottled water was free.

The “Charleston 9” T-shirts honoring those killed at Emanuel AME Church 10 nights ago were 10 bucks each.

The spectacle of thousands, who were hoping to get into TD Arena for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, still waiting in line way up Meeting Street past Marion Square at 10:30 Friday morning was extraordinary.

The unifying vibe was priceless.

Lots of people. Lots of them wearing their Sunday finest. Lots of positive energy.

My vantage point was from the steps in front of the old federal building. Sitting next to me, a local man roughly my age (in other words, pretty old) said he wasn’t trying to get into the funeral, he was there to catch a glimpse of the president of the United States on his way to give the eulogy.

Eventually, though, as the clock ticked to 11, the man on the steps with me figured out that the president wouldn’t show up until much later and would take a different route.

Much earlier, most of those people in that line had to have already figured out that there wasn’t enough room for but a very few of them in the 5,400-seat home of the College of Charleston Cougars basketball team. Still, nearly all of the line-standers I saw stuck it out until getting the “all full” word around 10:45.

A few in the steady turned-away stream heading back up Meeting Street told me they didn’t get in despite showing up before the sun came up.

Though the Charleston Museum, just up the street, was set up to show the funeral, that venue was already full, too.

So while vivid images of this latest chapter in Holy City history abound, seeing so many folks sharing not just sorrow but resolve and fellowship on a hot Friday will remain an especially heartwarming memory.

June 17, 2015, is forever stained as a date of bigotry-based inhumanity here.

Yet June 26, 2015, rates its own permanent place as a date when a president and assorted other dignitaries came here to manifest America’s caring and solidarity with us.

It also delivered another welcome reminder that despite lingering divisions, our community, state and nation are fairer places than they were in my distant youth.

That doesn’t mean our race-based disagreements have vanished.

And don’t give or take too much credit for the reassuring response to the loss of the Mother Emanuel Nine, aka the Holy City Nine. If we couldn’t come together to share grief and compassion over mass murder at a Bible study, we truly would be a lost cause.

Charleston area residents also shouldn’t take excessive consolation in the confirmation that race relations here are much more harmonious than in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.

Then again, it has been gratifying to see so many people from so many places expressing not just their sympathy but their admiration for the people of our community.

It was inspiring, too, to see so many people turn out to pay their respects Friday to Sen. Pinckney — and to feel a palpable, common resolve to bring something good and lasting out of a hateful abomination.

However, here’s a tip to my fellow conservatives of all races about how to help sustain the welcome surge of mutual respect triggered by the atrocity at Mother Emanuel:

Resist any misguided urge to brand our first African-American president as not just mistaken in his policy judgments but anti-American in his motives.

Plenty of the people I saw Friday down by Marion Square weren’t there merely to honor Pinckney and the other eight people killed last week.

They were there to see — and to honor — President Barack Obama.

And in this week when the significance of symbols has been demonstrated anew, it should be ever more obvious that many Americans — and not just black Americans — are still deeply moved by and invested in the profound symbol of our first black president.

It should be clear, too, that the president delivered a powerful eulogy/speech Friday.

Among his many memorable lines was this one hailing an example that the state senator set — and that we all, regardless of ideology, should strive to emulate:

“Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small.”

Our president even sang “Amazing Grace.”

Another uplifting sentiment, this one from a British knight who visited our state this week:

“This next song we would like to dedicate to all the people in Charleston. We show how solid we are with them after they’ve been through this tragedy. We pray that people of all colors will be able to live together in peace and harmony.”

That was what Sir Paul McCartney said Thursday night at the Colonial Life Arena before performing his 1970 Beatles hit, “The Long And Winding Road.”

And as our community, state and nation move forward from the horror of June 17 and the hope of June 26, remember, we’re all on this long and winding road together.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.