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Editorial: Building resolve on the saddest night

Maybe our community’s resolve blossomed in a park on a somber Thursday night.

Hours after being stunned by the news of the shooting death of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney — the boy from Ridgeland who grew up to be a man in the Statehouse in Columbia — about 150 people gathered at Turpin Park in Ridgeland, held hands, helped each other light candles and joined in collective sorrow.

Amid the pained voices, there suddenly emerged a desperate understanding — now’s the time to stand together.

Jasper County Council vice chairman Marty Sauls looked out at the mix of faces and urged everybody to prove to the rest of the county, the state and the nation that we can live in harmony. We were heartened by the distinct feeling that Sauls was not pleading with the people, but was echoing everyone’s thoughts.

It’s been a tough several weeks. We recently had four homicides in the county, which makes for six this year and nine in the last eight months, and then late last Wednesday we lost 41-year-old Pinckney, a rising hometown success story.

But we are encouraged that the community’s not apathetic toward violence. Charles Mitchell, who founded Concerned Citizens of Jasper County and has held many “Stop the Violence” rallies, and Ladenier Mitchell organized vigils last Thursday, and Thursday evening’s candlelight gathering proved the citizens are determined to see the county overcome its struggles.

County probate judge Buster Kleckley went to Charleston last Thursday morning and as he drove the 72 miles back to Ridgeland, he struggled to find any hope, any good in the killing of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

And then he arrived at Turpin Park and saw the people – hand in hand – praying and lighting up the night for Pinckney, for the others killed and their families and for each other.

“The feeling you have in your heart, the unity we had when we held hands and prayed, keep that in the morning when you wake up,” Kleckley said. “Do not let this be in vain.”

We felt the heavy sadness last week, but we also saw a determination to help Jasper heal and saw what Kleckley saw: a community that knows it won’t flourish until it can trust and embrace each other.

We hope the building of that trust began with a collection of grasped county hands last Thursday, the year’s saddest night. 

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