Columbia County neighbors, police officers honor fallen lives across the country

Published: Jul. 10, 2016 at 11:33 PM EDT
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Sunday, June 10, 2016

EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Among stormy clouds in the sky and a week of national tragedy on their minds, folks of all kinds came together at the Lady A Pavilion in Evans. Everyone from friends and families to police and neighbors gathered in the name of love and support.

Part-time photographer and mother Jeri Ann Beckworth came up with the idea to honor those who lost their lives after one of the most violent weeks in recent memory.

"I do photography on the side," Beckworth says, "and I thought it would be really nice to use my town for something God-driven [and] purpose-driven."

It all started with a Facebook post calling for 15 to 20 people to show up to Evans Towne Center Park for a photoshoot to honor the fallen. But within hours, it spread to everyone in the community.

She says the sight of so many people meant her idea had grown into something bigger than themselves.

"I think that sometimes people are scared to put their arms around each other and love each other," Beckworth says. "When I asked people to come out tonight, I said on my post that if you're not comfortable holding a stranger's hand don't come because that's not what this is about. We are about trying to pull people together in love."

Minister Demtrius Minor offered prayers and hugs to all who came to the park. The sound of Amazing Grace echoed through the park as folks, wearing American colors and holding Bibles, held hands and prayed. After a sad week, he says love here is strong.

"I saw black people, I saw white people, I saw Hispanic people, I saw people from various backgrounds come together," Minor says. "Why? Because they love their neighbor. Because they want to see each other be uplifted and to be encouraged. That's very important and also very encouraging to see."

He says the greatest sight is seeing their deputies support them hand in hand. After seeing a national divide between the black community and police officers, the sight of deputies and their black neighbors is something he says isn't seen enough.

"I made it my business to personally thank law enforcement for being there, for what they do to personally," Minor says. "[I wanted to] thank law enforcement for being there, for what they do because it is a thankless job and because they put their lives on the line. But they love their community and we love them and we need to continue to support them."

Even though folks will go their separate ways after the prayers, Beckworth says gatherings like these help keep the community together.

"Change starts really small and it grows rapidly and I really hope what we did here tonight will just be shared throughout our community and we'll see more of this."

Beckworth says she's hopeful for more gatherings in the future for her neighbors and their police officers.

While Minor says it should not take national tragedies to bring people together, he hopes everyone across the area can make it through this tough time and stay safe.