ROCKINGHAM — Nearly 400 people gathered at the old courthouse Sunday evening to pray for the safety of law enforcement officers in Richmond County, said organizer Cathy Wilson.
She said the vigil was a response to “happenings around the country.”
“We’ve had our National Day of Prayer service every May,” said Wilson, who has organized that event for 23 years. “When this happened, Sherrill Jackson called and said, “Don’t you think we ought to plan something? And I said, ‘I do think we need to plan something.’ I called people I knew who would be willing to help. Pastors and people. I think the people were just ready for it.”
N.C. Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Joheliah Wilson said she was surprised by the number of supporters the event drew.
“There was a good crowd,” she said. “I told them I appreciated the support of the community toward law enforcement. The level of support me and my officers saw meant a lot. Our job is for us to go home safe at the end of the day after keeping them safe throughout the day. Without the support of the community, it makes our job harder.”
Sheriff James E. Clemmons, Jr. and Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters also took the podium to thank the community.
“Those who spoke had very kind words for our community,” Cathy Wilson said. “I’m very appreciative we had such a large turnout to pray for our law enforcement, to pray for their safety. I could have told them that all the time, but when that many people come together is shows them that people are so appreciative.”
Cathy Wilson said she regrets anyone missed it, and that the prevalent atmosphere at the vigil “was a very sweet spirit.”
“I hope that people who did not come will take some time to pray for our officers,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt to take them cookies once in a while, or some cake, and just let them know we are praying for them.”
The event featured prayers by Robbie Steward, Eddie McLean, Ronnie McLean, Dr. T. R. Harrington, Roger Webster and Horace Swails.
“And we had two songs,” Cathy Wilson said. “Raven Newton sang the national anthem, and Yvette Potts sang ‘Let There be Peace on Earth.”
She said that even though the prayer vigil was organized as a response to national events, there exists the possibility of having another one like it in the future.
“Even today, people are saying, ‘When are we going to do it again?” Cathy Wilson said. “It’s just an important time for people to come together.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.