INSIGHT-South Carolina's "Holy City" united by faith and hospitality
By David Adams
CHARLESTON, S.C., June 28 (Reuters) - In the midst of mourning the nine victims gunned down at a historic African-American church in Charleston earlier this month, retired nurse Vickie Countryman found herself shopping for an upcoming wedding.
Her spirits were lifted by a black shop assistant at Dillard's department store, who cheerfully fussed over her and helped her find an outfit.
Countryman, 60, was stunned when she learned that one of the massacre victims was the assistant's cousin.
"Her parting words to me were: 'It's okay, we're going to be okay'," said Countryman.
"I'm standing there, white, and without words," she recalled.
The store employee's reassuring manner in the face of tragedy, was just one example of the extraordinary grace and courage of Charleston's black community, seemingly setting it apart from other U.S. cities that have grappled lately with racial issues.
The deaths of the "Emanuel 9," shot while attending Bible study at their African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, allegedly at the hands of a racially-motivated gunman, was an ugly reminder of the city's history as a key slave port and a hotbed of white supremacy.
Yet, the city's response to the horrifying murders - including the tearful forgiveness expressed by relatives of the victims during the accused gunman's first court appearance - also highlighted the profound ways Charleston, and to some extent the state of South Carolina, have changed since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Continuación...