On July 18th, 2015 at the South Carolina State House, I sat down at the table with its worst horrors.
I was covering a Ku Klux Klan rally in Columbia, held about a week after the highly-debated Confederate flag was lowered from State House grounds. The flag was the topic of a national conversation for weeks after nine people were killed at a bible study in an AME church in Charleston, and the accused shooter was seen in photographs using the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy.
I'd covered two rallies before this one, but they didn't feel like this. There were thousands of people at this one. There were passionate, angry, emotionally charged people with opinions they were sharing loudly at this one. There were probably a hundred law enforcement agents at this one. There was a lot of media at this one. The Black Panther Party and the KKK were at this one. This one wasn't just about a flag.
I know my job is cool in that it gives me a front row seat to history. Every day, I learn something new about someone new, about the world we all share and live in together. That world is always changing, and we get to know so much about that as reporters. Even better, we get to share it with you. It is such a full way to experience life. But just like the quote says, your eyes are opened to ALL that humanity is and can be, not just the parts that are easy to love.
The media was placed in a barricaded section between the steps the KKK stood on and the barricades that kept the crowds of protestors away. We watched people tear apart flags, shout hateful, vicious, foul things at one another. Fights broke out in the crowds among people who don't even know each other, but know they aren't alike, and know that they are angry.
You don't want to believe you are part of any sort of humanity with the capacity for such vileness and detestation. But if you're me at this rally, you have a deadline to meet.