Sometimes things happen so fast you don’t realize their importance; until someone like a Sybil Wilkes makes you take note of it.
Tuesday morning during the commercial break just before my segment here on the TJMS Sybil asked me if I was planning on writing about my experience in South Carolina in the past couple of weeks.
After all, I was on the air when word of the shooting began to spread.
I was the first to report it nationally on CNN.
“We’re going to begin with some breaking news. It’s just coming in. it’s out of Charleston. It’ what our affiliate WBTV is reporting that there’s been a shooting at a church there. A shooting at a church in Charleston.”
The next morning as I was headed to the airport to cover the story, I reported it on this show and we had a lengthy conversation about what would drive someone to commit such an act.
And then just a short time later I was on the ground in Charleston witnessing the initial shock, anger and grief from family and members of the community hours after nine people lost their lives inside Mother Emanuel Church.
The sadness was overwhelming.
I could feel it as soon as I arrived at the airport, but the people could not have been kinder.
They came from all over the state, all over the country really, making the church a living memorial to the victims and their families by placing flowers, cards and candles out front.
They even prayed and sang.
(singing) “Amen, amen, amen, amen.”
And then two days after their family members were murdered for no good reason, something extraordinary happened.
“I just want everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.”
Family members told the 21-year old confessed murderer that they forgave him for taking their loved ones away.
I don’t think I’m that big a person to do that.
And then just a week later another extraordinary moment.
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound.”
The President sang, gave a eulogy, a sermon really, to the country; a country that needed exactly what he was delivering at that moment.
He became the pastor in chief and as I watched with my CNN colleague Van Jones we both could barely keep it together.
“This is quite possibly one of the most extraordinary moments I’ve witnessed on television especially in a speech coming from The President. I’m never really at a loss for words and I’m almost at a loss for words right now.”
In that moment, President Obama lost the filter that had kept him from speaking as many in the country wanted him to speak.
He seemed free and it was fantastic.
And then a few weeks later something even more extraordinary, especially bearing witness to it as a son of the south.
That hateful Confederate flag came down.
“I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, really a little town called Port Allen and then also Baker. And that was one of the reasons I left. I didn’t think specifically about the flag. I just thought that my chances were limited as long as I stay in the South. So I went north where I did have more opportunities quite frankly.”
Van Jones cried.
I did not realize that that flag coming down would affect me so.
It was a big moment for the country and I am so fortunate to be able to guide America and the world through them.
Thank you Sybil for helping me to take a little time to appreciate that I got to see history close up.