I live in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, less than a mile from the Ravenel Bridge, a bridge that has new meaning today. As the world knows, nine people were shot at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on Wednesday. That, in and of itself was a horrible tragedy. And, that single act of unconscionable violence also cracked open a huge wound that has been festering since the first people were torn from their homeland, brought to this port and sold into slavery.
That energy has been palpable for those of us who are healers and/or sensitive to such things. We have seen it in the eyes of those raised here. We have been aware of it by people’s posture and attitudes. We have felt it in what wasn’t said as much or more than what was spoken. At times, it has made it nearly impossible for me to be comfortable in the community here. My heart broke over and over and I was filled with sadness.
Those that grew up here and/or lived here long enough built up a scab – tough and impenetrably. I admired them. I wished I could be like them. I strove to ignore the obvious and longed to have the courage to ask how they achieved that armor. But, I didn’t want to risk bringing their pain to the surface or be insensitive in any way.
Wednesday, a huge part of the armor exploded. Blood and pain spilled into the streets. And, the healing that was waiting had an opportunity in the grief and shock that was shared. Yesterday, in the show of support and love, Hands Across the Bridge began the healing. It was the tremendous celebration of unity this community needed and longed for. The love began to seep into the wounds of shame and anger. Relief wrapped comfort around the pain of the loss. Forgiveness flowed in ways no one would have previously thought possible.
People came together and prayed, held hands, cried, talked, hugged and, at last, could look into each other’s eyes and smile. No one looked down or away. We saw each other the way we had always wanted to, but couldn’t. We are a community that finally has the chance to heal in a way no one had words for, but every one wanted.
We mourn our loss and know that these beautiful people gave their lives to bring healing to a community, a state and a region that desperately needed it.
Today, we begin the journey of holding that healing, weaving it into our daily lives or tossing it aside and returning to the old familiar ways. I am sure, knowing humanity, that both will happen. However, I do believe that the integration (every pun intended) will outweigh the rejection of love. This coming together of all people has been too long awaited to be denied or diminished.
This morning, the air is lighter even in the oppressive heat. Today, we shine as brightly as the sun, even in our sorrow. We have hope and joy where there was none. We sing in our kitchens and dance in our homes. We smile openly at strangers on the street, because we are no longer strangers. We are a community, an extended family.
Today, we truly begin building a better tomorrow based in love, respect and equality.