It is hard to measure the heart-wrenching grief a community experiences when young people are tragically killed. Just as hard to grasp are the questions that invariably come as people try to wrap their minds around why one so vibrant, with so much of life left to live, is taken from us suddenly and inexplicably.
While we mourn the loss of community stalwarts, those who have battled bravely against all forms of disease and those who are taken from us with little warning, it is at times like those we’ve experienced in the last few weeks that we, as a collective community, shake our heads and wonder why, even as we mourn with families we might not even know, lift prayers for strength and suck in our breaths in fear of what will be next.
In July, we have witnessed two tragic deaths of young people, taken from us in the blink of an eye and way, way too soon. On July 8, 17-year-old Midway High senior Jackson Barefoot was tragically killed as he was riding his bicycle alongside a roadway in northern Sampson. Not quite 10 days later, a second accident took the life of 10-year-old Gloria Joiner who, along with her dad and other children from her church, were headed to a church retreat when the SUV careened off the roadway near Raleigh and overturned.
Well-loved in their communities and within their church families and schools, the death of both young people has left a tremendous void. To say it has rocked the foundations of those closest to them is an understatement.
But as tragic and heart-breaking as both incidents are, we still see the shining light of love pouring out from a community that rallies around its people when terrible things happen.
We have seen it time and time again, and we are thankful, reminded yet again of how wonderful Sampson County residents are and how compassionate.
In times of trouble, our friends, neighbors and even strangers can be counted on to rally around, provide comfort, a warm hug, lots of prayers and, if needed, financial support at a time when it is needed the most.
While nothing we do can bring back the young lives lost, our love and support does bring comfort and shows those left behind that they are not alone, that their needs are being attended to and help is never too far away.
Like many communities, Sampson has seen its share of tragedies over the course of the last year, too many, in fact, to name. But comfort can be found in the knowledge that those suffering the most from the losses do not have to do it alone.
While the void will remain, even as days turn into weeks and weeks into months and then years, we hope the families of Gloria Joiner and Jackson Barefoot, as well as others across our great county, know that these young people touched many lives in their few brief years on this earth, and because of that their memories will live on in the hearts and minds of those with whom they came in contact.