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Joseph: We bow to you, Charleston

Posted: July 9, 2015 5:29 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2015 1:00 a.m.

Oh … the ever so wonderful sleepless nights of a worried parent. If we’re lucky, they don’t come often.

I learned of the horrific Charleston shooting just after midnight, early into the next day. As I lay awake, my rational mind told me, “He’s fine.” Of course, a parent doesn’t always go to that logical place in our heads; worry can outsmart the former very quickly. At first, I tried calling my son and, after several tries with no answer, I decided to try the more popular version of communication amongst his generation, and sent him a series of texts. Still no answer. Sleep finally won. I woke several hours later to the buzz of a text that read, “Mom, call me.”

My son lives in Charleston not far from the Emanuel AME Church where the nine courageous victims lost their lives. For most of night, he watched the bright beams of light shine on his apartment intermittently from the helicopters above searching for the evil one who had committed this heinous crime. We spoke again a day later.

“Mom, you can’t believe what is going on here. I am outside the church. There are so many people. It is beautiful,” he said. “Come to Charleston, Mom. You just have to see this.”

Like so many, we watched, we cried, we prayed, we waited for a response, a reaction, an answer to the evil. The reply was loud and clear from Charleston, from South Carolina. Love overcomes. Love never fails. Love conquers evil. Love will always have the last word.

What came next was neither expected nor explicable and the world was watching, yes the world. One after another, family members of the nine victims gave forgiveness to the very one whom had taken their loved ones from them. They forgave him; they prayed for his soul. I believe this kind of forgiveness is humanity at its most human. For me, this was raw love, raw faith. Love and hate face-to-face, stripped down, and standing before each other with only one judge they couldn’t see. But they could. They knew he was in their hearts. And on this day, he, the love, would win. 

In times of great crisis, we will look to our leaders for comfort and resolve. Our city, state, and national leaders were quick to respond and did so with grace and respect for those who had lost the most. Joe Riley, mayor of Charleston for 40 years, along with the families of the victims, set an awe-inspiring and faithful tone for healing. As the people in his city grieved, he would exemplify qualities of a true leader: qualities of composure, strength, love and compassion for the citizens of Charleston. He knew this hatred would not divide this community, only unite them. From the beginning, the people of Charleston handled the tragedy with such heart and hope and connection. 

Of course, there is more work to be done in our society in acts of hatred, prejudices and racism. But make no mistake; this positive reaction is a sign of something greater to come. A large white banner hung from a nearby church in Charleston with the words, “Holy City. Let us be the example that love conquers evil.” 

Thank you Charleston for proving to the world this is true and very much alive.


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