Mount Vernon — While many in Westchester and the rest of the world were affected emotionally by the senseless killing of nine people in the Charleston church shooting, things hit a little closer to home, than just heavily covered news for 2015 Mayoral candidate, Clinton Young. Clinton Young, the former Mayor of Mount Vernon who beat Ernie Davis in 2007 and then lost to Davis in a rematch in 2011, was baptized at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church (the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States) and still has family who attends services there. His 81-year-old cousin, Doris Coaxum-Sanders, was actually inside the church when the shooting started.
“I got on the phone immediately,” Young tells Eyewitness News. “My family, six generations, at Emmanuel.”
Clinton, may be in the streets of Mount Vernon, trying to secure enough signatures on his petitions to secure a position on the ballot for the upcoming election, but as one can imagine, his mind is in Charleston, where he was born and lived until he was eight-years-old and on Emmanuel A.M.E., a historic symbol of black resistance to slavery and racism.
“It is such a magnificent edifice,” he told Eyewitness News, Friday afternoon. “You actually walk in, and it’s a very large church. You can feel the spirit of those who built that church.”
Young’s family is still part of the congregation, and Coaxum-Sanders was at the meeting that ended when Dylann Roof opened fire. In a phone interview, she tells Eyewitness News that she did not see the young suspect, accused of doing the unthinkable — killing eight of her fellow churchgoers and their pastor.
“Really feeling that God had spared me from something that could have been very, very tragic and devastating to my family,” she said.
Coaxum-Sanders remains active member in the historic church, and she admits questioning why she was spared.
“The one question that I’ve asked over and over again is why?” she said. “And that why, it came from my belief in God, and so I’m still searching for an answer.”
Young, still visits Charleston each year and says he’s looking forward to celebrating at Emmanuel again.
“It is a strong congregation,” he said. “It is a congregation who, again, has a deep history, and they will survive. They will definitely survive.”
But for now he has to find away to continue to campaign in his hopes of regaining the mayoral seat he briefly held. Davis and Clinton are current running against each other for a third time along with five other candidates for Mount Vernon top seat.