There have been several moments in recent memory that have exemplified the resiliency of Charleston’s community. We have endured the painful loss of cherished residents only to come out of these tragedies more unified and connected. Storms have ravaged our coast and battered down our homes. Yet, we always band together and press forward in uncertain times.

The strength of Charleston is no accident. We have forged a remarkable city because we embrace our diversity, heritage and we believe every community, every business, and every resident should have a seat at the table. In a time of need, we know we can rely on our neighbor. That is the key to our strength.

COVID-19 is a new challenge for us. While many of our businesses have closed their doors for the unforeseeable future and a trip to the supermarket can be a deadly risk for our most vulnerable, we must remember how we overcame previous challenges. We must look to the everyday citizens who proved that heroes don’t wear capes or masks. (We certainly could use some more masks right now, though.)

People of Charleston are collecting supplies for the needy, sewing medical masks in their homes, coordinating relief efforts for our unique small businesses, keeping us informed with accurate information through neighborhood Facebook pages, and medical personnel putting their health at risk to work the front lines. These are our citizen-heroes.

And these citizen-heroes remind me of how important it is that we have equally strong leaders at the highest levels. As President Harry S. Truman believed, “The buck stops here.” Meaning, our leaders are responsible for their communities, no questions, no excuses. Now more than ever, we need leaders who accept responsibility, not just from a place of humility but also from a sense of duty.

While there have been mixed signals from Columbia, The City of Charleston led from the front. The city has been proactive by issuing stay at home orders and closed public places to help stop the spread of the virus. Defying the state’s guidance is not a decision taken lightly, but leaders must act in a time of crisis, not sit on their hands and wait for someone else to tell them what to do. The City of Charleston made the right call by standing firm on the stay at home order and because the leaders in Charleston know what’s best for our community. Not the bureaucrats and politicians in Columbia.

We must also be mindful of the fear of the unknown. Fear can be crippling, especially since we do not know what direction this crisis will take next week or even tomorrow. However, we can find solace in a sea of uncertainty with the knowledge that our citizen-heroes will continue to do good work in our community and city leadership is moving forward with our safety as the top priority. We are all in this fight together and we will move beyond fear by leaning on one another.

We will prove yet again, that we are Charleston Strong. May we act on the lessons from our recent history and continue to learn from this crisis how to create a better and stronger tomorrow. Keep pressing forward my friends, we will prevail. Just as we have in the past.

Ed Sutton is a local small business owner, Air Force veteran, and a candidate for the South Carolina State House in House District 114, which covers parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties.

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