The killings need to stop

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2003

The good Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.

As I sat down in front of my computer late Sunday afternoon, scratching my head over a topic for this week’s column, the Ahoskie Police Department dispatcher’s voice broke the silence here in the office. Over the police scanner that sits right next to my desk, she reported of a peaceful protest taking place at that exact moment. Listening further, I came to realize that a group of religious-minded citizens had set-up camp in front of Ahoskie’s Town Hall.

I hopped in my trusty Oldsmobile and made a beeline up Main Street. Sure enough, there they were, signs in hand and praising the Lord in a loud voice. But this wasn’t your normal &uot;street revival.&uot;

Upon asking, I was told that the gathering was an effort by the Soul Saving Church of Ahoskie to raise awareness to the murder of an Ahoskie teen just last week. Holding signs that read, &uot;No More Killings&uot; and &uot;Jesus Loves You,&uot; I feel fairly certain that the group was also aware that last week’s murder of Bobby Harrell Jr. was the latest in a line of four brutal killings of young black males here in Ahoskie over the past 15 or so months.

Even though those responsible for all those murders are now behind bars, each awaiting trial, I agree with the line of thinking that provoked Sunday’s peaceful protest – the killing does indeed have to stop. Four young men, all in the process of just beginning their adult lives, will never experience the thrill of bouncing their children or grandchildren on their knees. They will not be able to wipe a tear from their eye when escorting their daughter down the aisle during her wedding or get a lump in their throat when their son sinks a game-winning three-pointer at the final buzzer.

Innocence has forever been lost, and for what? The cheap thrill of robbing some poor soul of a few bucks in order to get even a cheaper high? Or in the case of 20-year-old Tyrelle De’Shun Overton – gunned down in broad daylight along Ahoskie’s busiest thoroughfare in July of last year – a case of mistaken identity?

No matter the answers, these are senseless murders. Has our society degraded to a point where regard for a human life is worth no more than a handful of money? If the purchase of drugs is at the root of this evil, then it makes these killings even more tragic. I feel sorry for those whose only recourse to satisfy their thirst for drugs is to take the life of another human being. I need to quench my desire for nicotine and caffeine, but I work for an honest dollar and use that money to purchase those items. To those who are addicted to some sort of drug, if you can’t get professional help to stop, then get a job and support your own habit.

Not only have we lost four young men, there are four families left grieving over the loss of a loved one. To take this a step further, the families of the accused murderers are also left in anguish. Even though their loved ones are alive, they are left to deal with the mental anguish of having a family member’s name cast into such negative limelight.

Will the message sent from Sunday’s peaceful protest be heard, or for that matter, heeded? Unless you are a member of that congregation, happened to drive past the Ahoskie Town Hall late Sunday afternoon or read the accounts of their anti-violence campaign in this newspaper, just how many are aware of their efforts. Is it enough to make a difference in our community?

For the present, that answer may be in the negative sense. But what if other churches heard their voices. Think of what could happen if all God’s children rose in unison and took the &uot;Thy Shall Not Kill&uot; commandant into the streets of Ahoskie and surrounding communities. We’d see a revival to end all revivals.

I admire the efforts of the Soul Saving Station congregation. Sure, these are black parishioners voicing concern over the murders of young black men. But this is not confined just to the African-American race.

We all – black, white and red – are citizens of Hertford County. Our paths cross at some point each and every day. When a young person is murdered, it makes no difference the color of his or her skin. We all have lost one piece of our future. Who knows if that single soul was destined to make a big impact on the future of the Roanoke-Chowan area?

The killings do need to stop. Our future hinges on the survival of our young people.