Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74, a Vietnam vet, longtime pastor, father, and grandfather, died June 17, 2015, in the mass shooting in Charleston.
he massacre of nine people on June 17 at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the eighth in a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.
“Eulogy: For Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr.”
A gentle man with an easy smile
Dependable, an excellent administrator
He had a very good sense of humor
This man baptized me, married my parents, and eulogized my granny
A distinguished man who served his God, country, and community well
Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart: Allen University; Phi Beta Sigma;
Master’s of Divinity; pastor; father, grandfather.
How many times did you wonder if today was the day
you would die? Some days last longer than others, we know,
and the world must have slowed in its rotation the hour
enemy fire found you, the young black soldier
in that green heat, when your bright blood
sought the earth. Did it return to you,
that green day, when enemy fire, as if traveling through time,
came to reclaim you? Those hours in the ambulance, the hospital,
the operating room must have been some of the longest
in recorded history. They draped the American flag over your casket
as your children and grandchildren lifted you up
in song, and it seemed as if the country itself, some essential part,
would descend into the earth that day. But you did not die young,
like so many others whose names the nation
has lately learned to mourn. You died at seventy-four,
after three decades of saving souls; your children, grandchildren
are beautiful; and all the days you did not die can never now be
taken from you. Your family, not the enemy, had the final word:
“Although he died at the hands of hate,
he lived in the hands of love.”
The words that open this poem are those of people who knew Reverend Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. Many of the details included in the second part are based on an article from Charleston’s Post and Courier, which noted that Rev. Simmons was the only victim of the Charleston massacre who survived long enough to be taken to the hospital, where he died on the operating table. The words that close this poem are from a statement issued by Reverend Simmons’s family.