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Father: ‘We need one another’ — Bogue Chitto Strong plans monument dedication

A community that reaches out farther than Bogue Chitto came together in the school gym Saturday to remember the eight people slain by a lone suspect in 2017, to honor their families and to celebrate unity.

The Bogue Chitto Strong event helped organizers exceed the $20,000 goal needed to construct and install a 10-foot-by-6-foot monument inscribed with the words “You will never be forgotten” on the front followed by the names of victims: Deputy William Durr, 36; Brenda May; 52; Barbara Mitchell, 55; Toccora May, 34; Jordan Blackwell, 18; Austin Edwards, 11; Ferral Burage, 45 and Sheila May Burage, 46.

Johnny Ray Hall, Durr’s father-in-law, said the goal is to have the monument completed in time for a dedication Memorial Day weekend for the third anniversary of the victims’ deaths.

Any money raised over the cost of the monument will be used for scholarships in their memory, said Carl Brown, one of the event’s organizers.

“BC Strong: Triumph Over Tragedy” included speakers, music, a cornhole tournament, live actions, a book signing and a jambalaya plate dinner.

The theme of the event, held at the Bogue Chitto Attendance Center gym was “A Night of Unity, Hope and Inspiration.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing thanked the community for supporting each other and law enforcement in the wake of the shootings nearly two years ago. His deputy, William Durr, was the first killed as he answered a domestic call on Lee Road in Bogue Chitto.

Rushing followed Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Mickey Myers’ lead and turned to scripture as he addressed the approximately 400 people in the gym — “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” from 2 Corinthians 1:3.

“We need to keep our eyes on Jesus to not fall victim to discouragement,” he said. “We, as a community, should be encouraged because God is a God of mercy and comfort.”

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins, whose department is still grieving the deaths of Cpl. Zach Moak and patrolman James White, who were killed in the line of duty in September, talked about the importance of honoring those who have been lost.

“No matter how dark it gets, no matter how hard it gets, we must shine on. We must be a beacon for God,” he said. “The best way we can honor those who we have lost is to keep up the fight and to not give up.”

Bro. Billy Joe Deere offered a prayer to illustrate God’s power.

“And no matter how crazy the storm gets, God will always see you,” he said. “Storms cannot cloud Jesus’ view of you.”

Rev. Shon Blackwell, whose son Jordan was one of the victims, closed the evening with a prayer for unity.

“God has a way of showing us that we need one another,” he said. “We really are blessed to have such a wonderful community, to be able to share, encourage, love and live life together.”

Several musical acts performed, including deputy Durr’s widow, Tressie Durr, who sang Third Day’s “Cry Out to Jesus.” She was joined by her cousin, Emily Hall, who sang “Broken Halos” by Chris Stapleton.

Hall said she chose this song because it was what she listened to after the tragedy, specifically for the lyrics, “Don’t go looking for the reasons. Don’t go asking Jesus why. We’re not meant to know the answers. They belong to the by and by.”

Story by Sarah Elizabeth Balkcom