LAURINBURG — Scotland County, you continue to amaze me.
My time here has really given me a new prospective on how a community should be. I’ll provide a little bit of personal background so you know where I’m coming from.
I grew up in Fayetteville, which is just up the road from Laurinburg. I will always consider the city home, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. Fayetteville is very spread out. Some parts are isolated and others crowded, and those who call the city home come and go faster than a McDonald’s drive-thru. With it being a military town, nobody really sticks around for a long time. Sure, there will always be the regulars, but the community is not woven together — it’s a melting pot of people that come from all sorts of backgrounds.
After I graduated college and moved to Orlando, Fla. for a year, much was the same. Orlando is not a military town, but it’s essentially a metropolitan Fayetteville with Disney World slapped in the middle. Orlando is filled with tourists and “snowbirds,” as they are affectionately called. One time, enough people complained about a Jacksonville Jaguars game being broadcast rather than a Denver Broncos game that the station was forced to issue an on-air apology. Keep in mind, Jacksonville is less than two hours away. It would be unimaginable if Laurinburg did that with the Carolina Panthers.
The point is, loyalty and commitment does not mean the same in Fayetteville and Orlando as it does in Laurinburg. And nothing has showcased that better than how you have come together since Jaylend Ratliffe was injured.
When I first started working at the Laurinburg Exchange a month ago, I immediately got the sense that this community was different. Everyone who grew up here attended Scotland High. A lot of you stay local and go to St. Andrews University. People in the community know who their neighbors are. You know the coaches and athletes. And, most of all, you care.
So, when I attended the vigil for Jaylend at Scotland High last Thursday, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see so many of you in attendance. But when I walked through those double doors to enter the basketball gym, I couldn’t help but let out a small gasp.
There you all were, all 400 of you, crammed into the bleachers. The crash happened Tuesday afternoon, and by that night, the news had spread to all corners of the community. You soon rallied together for once cause — pray for Jaylend.
Fast forward one week later, and what the community has done is truly staggering. Donations to an online fundraiser quickly totaled more than $8,000. The “2 Strong” movement has gone on to sell hundreds of T-shirts. Several fundraisers were put together overnight, and countless prayers and well-wishes were issued to Jaylend and his family through social media, where #prayforjaylend became a trending topic.
It’s been an eye-opening experience for someone like myself, who never witnessed anything like this anywhere that I have lived. It’s truly been a privilege to have been a part of and to have covered the way this community has come together.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.