Pickens County community comes together to begin healing process

Community members placed flowers in memory of Carly and Sawyer Simpson around the flagpole at Dacusville Elementary School during a service held in their honor at the school last Thursday evening. (Emily Wright/Courier)


By Nicole Daughhetee

Courier Staff

DACUSVILLE — More than 100 members of a grief-stricken Pickens County community gathered outside of Dacusville Elementary last Thursday, to mourn the loss and celebrate the all-too-short lives of Carly and Sawyer Simpson.

Organized by Dacusville parent Amy Skipper and local clergywoman Rev. Ashley McCoy-Bruce, the memorial service for Carly and Sawyer was an effort to unify the community and begin the process of healing.

“I’m here to unify us in our faith and to speak as a mother. My children are raised in Dacusville. My sons graduated from this school. My daughter is a fourth grader here,” said Bruce. “We have worked together because we saw a need to gather quickly to express our heartfelt sympathy for the deaths of two beloved children, our concerns for a critically wounded father and for the soul of a broken mother.”

Many local businesses worked together to donate flowers for mourners to place around the flag pole in honor of the two slain children, in addition to sound equipment and candles for the vigil.

“This is what a community does,” said Bruce. “We rally together in the worst of times, in the most difficult times, and this is the most difficult of times.”

Dacusville Elementary principal Dr. Michael Fleming offered words of comfort and of thanks for Pickens County.

“On behalf of the Dacusville Elementary family, I’d like to thank you not only for being here tonight, but also for the love and support you’ve show us over the last few days,” he said. “We have indeed felt your love and especially your prayer.”

Children from Mrs. Nancy Zeigler’s first-grade classroom, classmates and friends of Carly’s, stood in tear-filled silence as their teacher remembered her lost student.

“When I trained to be a teacher, I had courses that taught me how to teach each subject, taught me how to deal with children with special needs, taught me how to manage my classroom; but there was never a course or a professor or a textbook that taught me how to help my students get over the death of a friend, let alone a friend who died this way,” she said. “In room B166 we’re hugging a lot more often. We’re telling each other ‘I love you’ more often. And we’re helping each other get through this. We’ve laughed together and cried together this week.”

Skipper spoke on behalf of Sawyer’s 4K classroom teachers Jama Freeman and Cindy Galloway.

“Sawyer was always very special to our classroom. He was always enthusiastic, adventurous and creative,” she said. “He always made us laugh. And, most of all, he always had the most beautiful smile that made everyone happy. We love you Sawyer and we will always miss you.”

While the memorial service for Carly and Sawyer was a valiant effort on the parts of many to bring some semblance of peace to a terribly shaken community, despite everyone’s best efforts, Pickens County residents and members of the Dacusville Elementary school family are aware that closure and healing are still a long way away.

“What I am about to attempt is the impossible. I am about to offer you some measure of comfort today and for the coming days. However, I must say from the start that I can’t possibly give you all that you need in a few minutes,” Bruce said. “I encourage each one of you to go to your place of worship or find a place of worship where you can continue to be reminded of the goodness and greatness of God and the hope and faith for tomorrow after you leave here today.”