Illuminating the darkness | News | The Press and Standard

by | April 5, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: April 4, 2018 at 9:56 am

The symbolic light came to the front door of Walterboro City Hall April 2.
Sean Thornton, the deputy solicitor for the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, offered those gathered for the Walterboro Police Department’s annual Crime Victims Vigil his take on the symbolic candlelight vigil.
“Why do we do candlelight vigils?” Thornton pondered. “Why is it about light? Why is it about candlelight?”
As he sought an answer, he told the audience he came across a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness can never drive out darkness, only light can.”
“When you talk about “this symbolic lighting of candles, what we mean is we need to be some hope for victims who are lost in a sea of darkness. That hope can be just one light, just helping one person. Just spreading that light to just one person and maybe they will spread it to someone else. That is why we come out do these candlelight vigils.”
His light came from a seven-year-old, the victim in a sexual assault case he had handled 20 years ago when he was a young prosecutor.
The young victim he called Jane, Thornton said, “had a spark about her.” He prepared the case knowing that the young girl would be a good witness, who would be able to face down her attacker in court.
But, he said, “The case only had the word of a seven-year-old girl. I lost that case. I didn’t take it very well. I didn’t know how I could explain to a seven-year-old girl I had failed.” Sitting at the prosecutor’s table dealing with emotions, “I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, it was Jane.”
“She said something that has stuck with me for 20 years. She said, ‘It is OK Mister Sean. God knows I told the truth and He will take care of it’ and walked out of the courtroom.
“That was what gave a light to me 20 years ago. I remember it every time I walk into court,” Thornton said.
“I like to think that I have gotten a little bit of light from every victim I helped, even some of the ones I couldn’t help,” Thornton said.
“If I come up with half the courage, half the compassion, and half the faith that that little seven-year-old girl had, I will be a lucky man,” he told the audience.
Dr. Gunther Rencken of Walterboro Family Practice, the police department’s crime victim medical service provider since 2007, preceded Thornton to the podium.
Rencken, who speaks at each vigil, told the audience he spends a lot of time thinking about what he wants to say. But this year “the words weren’t coming.”
Then “this afternoon I had an epiphany,” he said. “I was at my office and it was insanely busy. I called Denise and said I don’t think I am going to make it.”
“I had a young woman in front of me who was a victim of crime, someone Denise and I had been working with,” Rencken said. “I was rushing around and thinking about the system and how we can fix everything.”
As he assisted the patient, “I realized the most important thing is just the one person in front of you. That is what we can all do for each other, help the one person that is right close to you, the one you can reach out to and help.
“We don’t have to fix the whole system. For us, in our small town, our small community, you help someone else. And if that person helps someone else, it spreads the word.”
Denise Pinckney, the police department’s crime victim/witness program coordinator, told the crime victims gathered at City Hall, “We will not forget you. You will be forever in our hearts and prayers.”
Joining Thornton, Rencken and Pinckney on the program were Mayor Bill Young, Walterboro Police Office Rusty Davis, Chief Wade Marvin, and Walterboro Police Department Chaplin Eric Campbell.

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