We met a week ago—not in our usual time slot-- and it was the morning after the horrific assassinations of police officers in Dallas. What could we say? Of course the Mayor’s attention was focused on our own community, both the citizens and those who protect them, and as many times as we have talked about public safety in past “Ronnies”, it was abundantly clear that what had just happened in Dallas “raised the bar to a new low-ness.” We were pretty much stunned. I let him know that I planned on interviewing Chief Johnson, (see Publisher’s Point on page 3) and writing about our city’s determination to respond rather than react.
We met in the board room due to the fact that the street repair project outside his office on Hobbs was nearly loud enough to keep one from hearing one’s own thinking, and with his trademark Marks Mayoral humor, he looked at me as he poured us coffee and said, “Did you know that people complain when there are potholes to be filled, and people complain when we fill them?” I laughed.
Certainly our nation had been dealt a blow, and thankfully our city works diligently on all fronts to prevent the same kind of thing from happening here. However, there are no guarantees, other than the firm conviction that good is stronger than evil, and ultimately good will triumph, if we just bother to apply it.
But then, he asked, “Have you heard what the kids have done?” For a moment I tensed up, because I was concerned that there had been more vandalism at Pincham-Lincoln or elsewhere. “No sir,” I said. “They have decided to donate money to getting the windows repaired,” he said. I lit up with a smile, and waited for him to tell me more. He explained that the students from this past school year’s Mayor’s Youth Commission had decided to keep $500 in a fund in order to meet possible needs of incoming students who would join the Commission in the fall. Upon hearing about Trinity being essentially attacked, they were outraged, and expressed their dismay in a letter that was published in the News-Courier. I had never thought about this before, but it hurt them to think that other people in the community would possibly lump them into the despicable designation of being “kids these days” by virtue of the fact that they were teen agers, and not because of who they were as people.
It seems we have a lot of that going on in our culture, i.e., judging people by label rather than their lives, but in the case of the youth of Athens, Alabama, they fought back with sweetness that manifested itself in financial sacrifice.
Mayor Ronnie asked me if I could go to Trinity the same morning at 10 for an impromptu ceremony where representatives from the Youth Commission would present a check to representatives from the Athens Limestone Community Association. The ALCA has been the energy behind rebuilding Trinity/Pincham-Lincoln/Ft. Henderson. Others in attendance included the Mayor, Chief Johnson, and people who just loved Athens and wanted to help. The check was to go toward fulfilling the insurance deductible so the replacement of the windows could be expedited. I changed some things in my schedule, went to the presentation, and had the privilege of taking the picture of the event.
So, what was the sweetness? It was the attitude of the kids, and how they stepped up. It was the people who refused to be turned back from re-building Trinity. It was the watchful eye of our Mayor and our Police Chief; it was getting to pray and sing with Carolyn Williams as we stood in the kitchen of the room which had been dedicated to the late Jimmy Gill, and watched out for broken glass. It was being a part of a community in a state of discomfort that was being converted into something strong and good. And then, it was time for Ronnie, and the rest of us, to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner