County Sheriff Ronnie Fields didn’t provide an investigative update on Wednesday; as the Southern Pines Pilot reported, his office has said releasing information on the status of the investigation could “jeopardize” potential arrests. Up to $75,000 in rewards for information that leads to an arrest is on the table.
In lieu of concrete information, confusion and speculation have reigned. Freelance reporter Evey Weisblat, who lives in Moore County, has been talking to community members about their experiences this week. Here’s some of what they’ve told her.
Arthur Mason Sr., Carthage resident, Army Veteran, and member of the NAACP and American Legion Post 117
“We have people terrified. They don’t know what the next move is—that’s exactly why it’s a terrorist attack. Vandalism don’t cause this—terrorists cause this.
“I don’t think that has a whole lot to do with the LBGT show or the march that they had. This is something way larger than that. This is something way larger than that.
“I really think it’s the tip of the iceberg. And I think a lot more is going to happen and we need to be learning more than what the government has given us. Yeah, we need to know what they know. And we need to know it now. So we can know how to prepare for it.”
Crystal Benson, Carthage farm owner and community organizer who has been distributing dinners to fellow residents
“It’s been very heartwarming and overwhelming. Yesterday, we fed 120 people. Today, we’ve done that much so far, and there’s still about 40 or 50 people in line.
“Everybody that we’ve met has been very grateful. They’ve been very polite and patient. There’s been times when we’ve had to wait an hour, hour and a half for the chicken to get done or we’ve ran out of something. And they’ve been really understanding about that. They’ve been grateful for whatever they’ve been able to get.”
Assinta Person, Southern Pines resident and mother of five
“I slept so long the other night that I woke up and my whole body hurt because I was asleep so long, just trying to lie there with my eyes closed cause I can’t see nothing.
“We just making it work. We surviving. Thank God that our parents and our grandparents have taught us how to survive before now. Because I’m telling you, if we didn’t have that stuff on our belt we wouldn’t know, we wouldn’t be able to survive out here.”
“If you got money you can go buy a heater, you can go get a room somewhere. You got a car, you can go drive somewhere. But if you like me—I have no car, no job, I live in the projects — so to me, of course we get hit the hardest. But if I had anything to help I would help somebody, but I don’t have nothing to help nobody.”
Kenya Goldston, Southern Pines resident and mother of five
“You know it’s bad when all we have to do is sleep, so the days can go by so that time can pass so that the lights can be on.
“What don’t kill us, it makes us stronger. It’s the teachings, the way I was raised—you’re going to have to survive one way or another. We can’t let what’s happening get the best of us.”
Sharon Murphy, Southern Pines social studies teacher and wife of Trinity AME Zion Church’s minister
“One good thing, it brings communities together to help. I love how everybody’s pulling together. And even the traffic. People are kind. There’s like a four-way stop at a stoplight. And I’m like, this is so amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s working. But on the other hand, it’s so hurtful that someone would take it into their own hands to do something so heartless to cause this to happen.
“I’m glad that there’s outreach—like these ladies came all the way from Durham to bring diapers and different things to help, even blankets.
“God forbid, I wouldn’t want this to ever happen again, but if it did, you know that you have a community that’s got your back that will help. And churches pulling together, people pulling together.”
Charlie Jones, Vass resident and Air Force veteran
“We don’t have internet, and the only phone I have is my cell phone. So we really don’t have access to news outlets. So the only thing we have is information that’s being passed by word of mouth, between and among the residents here.
“I unfortunately had a heart attack a week and a half ago. I’m an old guy. But if I needed to get back to my doctor and say, ‘Look, you know, I’m having chest pains. Want me to come in?’ I almost have no way to contact her. Because she’s probably not in her office. Because her office doesn’t have electricity. So I don’t know how the heck I would contact her.”