Leonard family

The Leonard family Ramiah, Rasheda, Eugene Jr. and Eugene III.

I’m not writing this because I have any real notion of what to say. I’m writing this because I feel the need to say something.

I received a shocking text from my wife on Friday morning.

“Pastor Eugene’s daughter was killed this morning in a car wreck.”

“Pastor Eugene” is Eugene Leonard Jr., a friend in the ministry, a friend to the Anniston community.

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to respond.

I still don’t.

Anthony Cook

Anthony Cook is executive editor of Consolidated Publishing. Reach him at acook@annistonstar.com.

Soon details began to trickle in here at the newspaper. A reporter went to the scene to learn more.

The accident happened early Friday on Alabama 21 in Oxford, south of Wal-Mart. Eugene’s wife, Rasheda, was taking their daughter, Ramiah, to school, driving north on 21, and was turning left at an intersection when a southbound vehicle hit the passenger side of the car where Ramiah was sitting.

She was pronounced dead at 8:15, according to the coroner.

Word quickly made its way across social media. The pastor’s son, Eugene III, a 2019 Oxford High graduate, had already posted a sweet tribute to his 10-year-old sister.

Part of it reads: “... I know God got you, love you always ...”

The Anniston Star’s report on the accident was shared more than 500 times in two hours. A few of those shares were by people who like to be the first to pass along any news about almost anything, but most of the shares and responses were from people who personally know and love the family because they’ve been firsthand beneficiaries of their friendship.

Pastor Eugene and his wife shepherd two campuses of The Life Center church — one in Anniston and one in Auburn. This past year, they started the TLC Kids Academy, a curriculum-based day care.

They partnered in recent months with Church of the Highlands to serve the Glen Addie community in west Anniston. And that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of all the ways they give of themselves.

In one of my first encounters with Eugene years ago, he took me to a house in north Anniston that his ministry had purchased and was refurbishing as a potential shelter for the homeless in Anniston.

About a year ago when I called for men, particularly black men, in the community to respond to a spate of youth violence in Anniston, he was one of the first to raise his hand.

When a pastor is needed, there’s an instinct to go. There’s an instinct to serve, to do what you can to be a shoulder. Almost all of my pastor friends have it.

But there are times when the ministry wears you down, when saying yes to every request for a piece of your time begins to take its toll. There are times when you need those into whom you’ve poured to pour into you. Sometimes the one who’s usually a shoulder for others needs a shoulder to lean on. 

Now is one of those times for the Leonard family.

I don’t know what that should look like. I’ve personally resisted calling because I know they’re overwhelmed with calls and texts from friends and family near and far.

Just reading the condolences and tributes on Facebook will keep them busy for a while.

I can’t begin to imagine what the family is going through. My daughter was in a car accident a few years ago on Alabama 21 just south of where Friday’s accident occurred. She was OK, but it was nerve-wracking to imagine what could have been. For a friend to have a similar accident end in tragedy is heartbreaking.

I would love to know the right words to say that would soothe the pain, make things better, but I don’t. But as Eugene III said, I know God’s got you.

May these words be a literary shoulder. I don’t know what else to do.

Anthony Cook is executive editor of Consolidated Publishing. amcook70@gmail.com.

Editor Anthony Cook: 256-299-2110. On Twitter @AnthonyCook_DH.