What Hurts South Carolina Hurts Us All

Tonight South Carolina is grieving. We cannot heal their pain, but we must care.

For those of you who have never been, South Carolina is not part of flyover country. It is a state of very friendly people, the epitome of Southern hospitality. It was the original home of the Carolina Panthers until they moved to North Carolina. It is the home of the Clemson campus, where the Tigers greet strangers and friends with equal kindness.

For presidential candidates, it is a key primary state. Right now, that is beyond irrelevant. So are those who feel the need to take cheap shots about Strom Thurmond or Susan Smith. Hopefully those people can retract their claws and fangs for now. Today Rudy Giuliani’s South Carolina campaign manager was just arrested for cocaine possession. Unless the media are vindictive individuals with no perspective (oh, wait, they are), this will be the non-story of the day.

The real South Carolina story today took place in Charleston. The city of Charleston is known for a happy 1920s dance craze, appropriately named after the city. Today, however, Charleston, South Carolina, is now a place of unimaginable sadness. An out of control fire killed 9 firefighters with over a combined 100 years of service with the Charleston Fire Department. This was the largest loss of firefighters since 9/11. There are only questions, no answers.

Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Apparently dead white firefighters do not matter. Actually, I have no idea what color these firefighters are, but if they were black, there would be demands for an immediate investigation. Will the national media drop the story quickly? Yes. I give it 24-48 hours at most. Will the politicians make pious statements about the situation and say all the right things? Yes, especially John Edwards, who will again remind us that he was born there, the son of a mill worker.

Why am I lashing out at people who did not cause this problem? Because I am looking to blame someone. Until proven otherwise, terrorists did not do this. Nor did anti-war protesters, despite their hatred for South Carolina’s rich military tradition in places such as the Citadel.

This was not an act of out of control teenagers partying at Hilton Head. It was not demented sports fans going ballistic a year after the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.

So far, this seems to be an act of God, and I am not about to blame God. I can’t. I believe in God, which I am commanded to do always, not just when things are going well.

Yet despite being a state that is rather “religious,” I could understand if people had their faith shattered tonight. I would not be surprised if people were praying that this was arson, or faulty wiring, or anything but what it appears to be at this very moment…a tragedy with no explanations.

South Carolina is representative of America. It has a large black population that supports liberal democrats, and a large activist Christian presence that supports conservative republicans. It is the home of Military soldiers, and a place for teenagers to vacation on Spring Break.

Now it is the home of 9 dead firefighters. This is beyond tragic because the greatest dignity is found in ordinary Americans, and the greatest loss is when we lose these unsung heroes. We rejoiced when the governor of Pennsylvania announced, after 9 miners were trapped underground, that “All 9 are alive.” We were stunned when 12 West Virginia coal miners went under. We rejoiced when we were told they had all lived, and then the grief was compounded when we were told that only one had actually survived.

Firefighters risk their lives every day. They are as vital as soldiers, police officers and doctors. They keep us safe.

So what can we do to help? First, we have to wait, and be patient. People often want to immediately “do something,” such as with Hurricane Katrina. This is often not the wisest course of action. We need to absorb information about this situation rapidly, and then figure out what the people of South Carolina want us to do, not what makes us feel good.

Yes, we can then do the typical perfunctory gestures, such as sending money, flowers, gift baskets, etc. I am not minimizing these actions, but the problem is that once we do this, the issue fades away in our mind.

The key is to make sure this story does not die with these firefighters. People are already done with the Virginia Tech Massacre, and I doubt many people remember the tornado tragedy that hit Kansas only weeks ago. Unless tragedies happen in New York or Los Angeles, the media quickly loses interest. Apparently Middle America is not sexy enough to be covered in depth.

No, I am not blaming the media for this tragedy. I will, however, blame them if they fail to give this the attention it deserves.

The people of South (and North) Carolina stepped up bigtime after Hurricane Katrina. The National Football League began a blood drive before a game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. Carolinians donated their blood.

Today it is Carolinians themselves that are bleeding. Like me, most people want to blame someone. There is plenty of time for that. For now, pray for them. Even if you are angry at God, ask him (or whatever you believe in) to help these families tonight.

Firefighters keep us safe. When they die, a piece of our safety dies with it. I pray that the entire nation knows these 9 heroes. They are as follows (Data from CNN.com):

The victims, their ages and their years of service are:

  • Capt. William “Billy” Hutchinson, 48 (30 years)
  • Capt. Mike Benke, 49 (29 years)
  • Capt. Louis Mulkey, 34 (11½ years)
  • Engineer Mark Kelsey, 40 (12½ years)
  • Engineer Bradford “Brad” Baity, 37 (9 years)
  • Assistant engineer Michael French, 27 (1½ years)
  • Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton, 56 (32 years)
  • Firefighter Brandon Thompson, 27 (4 years)
  • Firefighter Melven Champaign, 46 (2 years)
  • South Carolina is a part of us. What hurts South Carolina hurts us all.

    May God bless their families, and the entire state of South Carolina.


    No Responses to “What Hurts South Carolina Hurts Us All”

    1. thescolai says:

      Thanks for posting the names of these brave men.

    2. Coach Fred says:

      This is a very tragic experience. Nine lives of people who were trying to protect the populace were sacrificed because of this humane cause. I know how hard it is to accept this reality especially for the family and for those people who knew these heroes. As what has been said, it was a natural disaster that God was pointed out to be the author. But who are we to blame Him? Maybe this is one way of reminding people that in life, death don’t hesitate to pay you a visit whether you’re young or old, nice or bad, rich or poor. We are all the same. The best thing we must do now is to pray for these people and their loved ones, try to pick up the pieces and start anew.

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