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Editorial: Anniversary of church shootings a day for practicing kindness

After eight days of heavy sadness, there were four uplifting hours.

Five thousand people gathered inside the College of Charleston’s TD Arena two years ago to celebrate the life of slain Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

Jasper County residents rose before dawn to ensure their spot. State dignitaries attended, including former Gov. Nikki Haley. Hillary Clinton was there, as was Al Sharpton, former Vice President Joe Biden and dozens of members of Congress.

Former President Barack Obama gave a stirring eulogy.

We were also there, June 26, 2015, more than a week after the Rev. Pinckney and eight parishioners were shot and killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The shootings of June 17, 2015, reverberated throughout the country and stung Jasper County, where Pinckney grew from a 13-year-old preacher to an 18-year-old pastor, to being elected to the state senate at age 27.

We remember the hurt and disillusionment of the aftermath, but we also recall the wonder of goodwill that engulfed the state and hummed throughout the arena.

“That reservoir of goodness,” Obama said.

We recall that afternoon as we recognize the two-year anniversary of the shootings.

Saturday will be a day to reflect on the lives lost, but it is also a reminder to appreciate our everyday interactions with others. A quick wave to a neighbor, a door held open for a stranger, thoughtful advice for a friend — are all actions that might seem minor at the time but can could leave long-lasting impressions that positively affect another person’s day.

Those acts, small but large in their impact, should not be taken for granted. Every day is an opportunity to be kind to a stranger or offer a helping hand.

We remember the 41-year-old Pinckney among the Emanuel Nine, and we remember the Emanuel AME Church’s boisterous choir that helped bring together an arena full of strangers.

The choir was unrelenting as it sang and clapped and swayed and brought the throng to its feet. We were all there for a funeral, to mourn and pay respects to the Emanuel Nine, but we also witnessed an unforgettable afternoon of rejoicing in the lives they led.

The choir sang: “I’m goin’ up yonder, I’m goin’ up yonder.”

The crowd stood, clapped and sang along as arms were raised and people from different cities and states and nationalities and religious beliefs joined together.

The choir and the arena bellowed: “I’m goin’ up yonder, to be with my Lord.”

Thousands of people were on their feet. It was a heartwarming moment amid a time of such heartbreak.

We recall the benevolence of that afternoon and hope it’s shared throughout the county this Saturday and every day.

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