The date of June 17 will live for a long time in the memories of Charleston, SC, and our nation, as a day of staggering tragedy, when 10 faithful members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, including Pastor Clementa Pinckney, were senselessly gunned down during a bible study. Only one victim survived. Hourly prayer vigils started shortly after the massacre, asking for Divine guidance, inspiration, and help.
This, however, is a story of heroic volunteerism on the part of EVS associates from nearby Medical University of South Carolina. John W. Lawyer, Jr., hearing of the day’s events moments after they took place, decided that he and his colleagues were in a position to make a difference in their community. As Senior Assistant Director to EVS in the hospital, John knew the community would have a hard time dealing with the aftermath and, more specifically, cleaning up the scene of the tragedy. After all, for the EVS team, terminal cleaning of operating rooms and trauma units is their stock and trade. He collaborated with Assistant Director Angie Starkey who wasted no time in approaching the church and phoning various government offices to offer their team’s services, each one telling her thanks, but they’d let her know. Apparently, a contractor had been appointed the task of cleaning up.
A few days later, John received a call from Emanuel’s church secretary, asking if their offer still stood. He and Angie went over to find carpets still in bad shape, and rooms left untouched. A quick call was made to General Manager Dick Smith, who approved use of cleaning supplies. Then the Crothall volunteers were assembled, including many family members, and gathering the tools of their trade, the crew was on site that same afternoon, cleansing and sanitizing the church. It took the crew two hours to do a thorough job. “That’s what we do best; clean up,” stated John.
According to Angie, they were prepared to do the work, but dealing with the grim marks of violence and grieving for the slain almost made the task impossible. However, it was a stronger emotion that got them through it. “Everyone came with love,” Angie said. “Across race—it was about love, peace, and reaching out.”
In a special note, MUSC CEO Dr. Patrick Crawley stated, “I would like to personally thank the MUSC Environmental Service team who took a trip over to Emanual AME Church and performed a special cleaning at the request of church members… This is tremendous example of MUSC Excellence!”