Forgive me for turning into a fanboy.
But in case you hadn't figured it out, I've really enjoyed Jennifer Berry Hawes' coverage of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting:
Once again, I'm here to praise the Pulitzer Prize winner's excellent journalism — with strong religion ties — for The Post and Courier, Charleston's daily newspaper:
Of course, I'm not the only one with kind words for Hawes' Sunday profile of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley:
As the best ledes do, this one immediately puts the reader in the middle of the gripping action:
The horror began with a late-night text from her chief of staff, then a phone call from the State Law Enforcement Division’s head. There had been a shooting at a Charleston church.
It was Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s church. Multiple people had been shot.
Gov. Nikki Haley quickly hung up.
“And then I called Sen. Pinckney.” She left a voice mail he never heard. “This is Nikki. I’ve heard about the shooting. I’m sending my full SLED team down there. Call me.”
Throughout the night, until 4:30 a.m., she spoke with SLED Chief Mark Keel as sickening details emerged. Each call “was one more kick in the gut,” she recalls.
After learning that Pinckney was dead, along with eight other worshippers, the state’s first female governor stepped into her two children’s bedrooms, quiet and peaceful at dawn, to tell them she was leaving — and why. Her husband, Michael, was gone for military training.
Then she walked through the doggy gate at the top of the Governor’s Mansion staircase, past formal portraits of President
Andrew Jackson and various governors hanging above her own family snapshots, and past her son’s basketball hoop in the flower-lined driveway. About 8:30 a.m., Haley boarded her state airplane to fly to the Holy City, the site of the nation’s most recent massacre in a house of worship since a white supremacist killed six Wisconsin Sikhs, the faith of her parents.
No, this isn't a religion story per se.
But it gets religion in that it reflects that angle — and nails that crucial aspect of the bigger story in all the right places.
I'll give two examples.
Black House members, however, spoke about how much the flag hurt them. And Haley understood. As the debate heightened, she met privately with the Republican caucus.
“I told them they had not heard me talk a lot about race, but I wanted them to know a story.”
The story was about a little girl who had ridden with her father from their hometown of Bamberg to the state capital. From a rural town of 2,500, it was a big deal. On the way home, they stopped by a farmer’s stand on the roadside. Her dad filled a basket.
A young Nikki Randhawa, a grade-schooler, glanced at the cash register. The owner looked nervous. And picked up a phone. “Next thing I knew, two police cars raced right up and stood right next to them at the register,” she recalls.
Her father, a tall and graceful Indian immigrant, always wore the distinctive turban of his Sikh faith, which teaches equality of all people before God, despite the stares it evoked. He walked over and shook the owner’s hand, said hello and paid for his produce. He said thank you.
On the 45-minute ride home, he didn’t say a word. He hoped his daughter hadn’t seen it. But she had. And she understood.
“I will never forget that moment,” she said.
In his eulogy to Pinckney, President Barack Obama noted: “Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.”
It echoed what many of the faithful were thinking given the love born from such murderous hate. Haley, who converted to Christianity as an adult, says she doesn’t question God, not even after the loss of nine people gathered to study the Gospel.
“I see how so many things have happened because of those nine people,” she says. “It’s hard not to say, ‘Wow, God chose them, those nine,’ and how they must be upstairs smiling right now, looking down on all that they did.”
And all that still could be done.
By all means, click the link and read the story.