The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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Editorials

June 24, 2014

Our community

More than 60 people participated in the Stop the Violence Rally last Saturday in Oak Hill, where the popular “rail trail” was the site of a brutal attack on a female runner on June 14.

The woman who was attacked escaped after slipping her bonds and contacting police, who have arrested a 47-year-old suspect from Oak Hill.

By all accounts, she is doing as well as can be expected after her unthinkable experience.

“She was a victim of her circumstances, but she’s not a victim,” said Regina Mims of Oak Hill. “She’s a hero. She prevented anyone else from getting hurt because she gave a total description to the police.”

We are in complete agreement with Ms. Mims on that.

The 8-mile walking and running trail in Oak Hill runs from Summerlee Road in Summerlee to Route 612 in Carlisle.

Part of the shock of the attack can be attributed to how many people use the rail trail, and they use it often. Nobody thought it wasn’t safe.

“Me and my wife walk the trail every day,” said Terry Groves, 60, a retiree. “We walk that particular stretch of the trail every night.

“I just think it’s time we let people know that we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.”

To us, that is exactly the response the community needs.

Acts of random violence such as the attack on the rail trail can only be prevented by the kind of strong community response we saw in Oak Hill on Saturday.

We indeed are not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.

If anything good at all could be made out of this attack — and our hearts and prayers are with the woman who was victimized — it’s the realization this could have happened to anybody using the trail, or any other public area in southern West Virginia.

Law enforcement can’t be everywhere. To help police and sheriff’s deputies, we all need to come together as one and say these kinds of acts will not stand, and do our part to make sure they don’t occur again.

To do that, we need the kind of community involvement and outrage those who attended the rally showed on Saturday. We need the awareness of an engaged public, keeping an eye out for anything that looks suspicious, and ready to report trouble to the authorities as soon as we see it.

All of us who run, jog or walk on public streets or paths also need to be more aware of our surroundings as well. We published some tips on how to stay safe, and we think it’s good and necessary advice. Those exercising in public areas need to be more aware and engaged as well, for their own sake as well as for others using the streets, roads and paths.

This is our community, not the community of predators.

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