Costa Rican coastal community grieves colleague killed in US church massacre

June 22, 2015

NOSARA, Guanacaste – Two South Carolina state legislators with ties to Nosara, on Costa Rica’s north-central Pacific coast, were particularly hard hit by the shooting death of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church late last Wednesday.

One of those killed was the Rev. Clementa “Clem” Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. He has been described as “the conscience of the S.C. General Assembly.”

Former South Carolina Rep. Jim Battle owns a home in Bosque Verde, a residential development in Nosara, in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste province. Battle served 16 years before retiring in 2006. For four of those years, he served alongside Pinckney.

When contacted last Thursday, Battle said, “I am devastated by this tragic event. It is hard for me to comprehend how something like this can still happen in a civilized society.

“Pinckney came into the House the same time I did, as a freshman and a friend. I worked closely with him when we were trying to get a new deep-water port for the state. He has relatives here in my home county who are very close friends of mine.”

Luke Rankin, also a property owner in Bosque Verde, is a 22-year veteran of the South Carolina Senate. Pinckney moved from the House to the Senate 15 years ago. Pinckney and Rankin became close friends.

“This has been a beautiful and most touching day filled with memorials in the Senate,” said Rankin on Thursday. I attended a church service at an AME church. There was wonderful music and there were wonderful tributes to a genuinely sincere and good man. At the service, Jeremiah Wright, from Chicago, spoke most eloquently.

“The command and depth of Clem’s voice in the Senate equaled that of James Earl Jones, and his manner and smile were most disarming. A fellow senator said that if there was any praise of his accomplishments, it never came from his own lips.

“We in the senate take some comfort in the constancy of certain daily rituals, customs and traditions. Things like the sergeant-at-arms formally placing the sword of state in its cradle at the rostrum to open each session; and like the requirement that, before being allowed to speak to the body, a senator must rise from his seat and be recognized by the presiding officer, who says, ‘The senator from Georgetown, for what purpose do you rise?’

“One of those daily rituals is the roll call before every session, always alphabetical.

“An odd moment, most poignant for me personally, came later in the day of all the memorials, when the official roll was called. Clem’s desk was draped in black. It was the first time in the past 15 years when Pinckney’s name was not called just before mine.”

Costa Rica resident Greg Smith is a former newspaper editor and publisher and a former member of the South Carolina State Senate. He has lived in Nosara for 14 years. 

Read: Shooting evokes some of the darkest days from the United States’ past

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