As if a bell tolled a neighbor’s trouble, folks came running.
The first showed up before the sun Tuesday, huddling and shivering in the cold and the dark. Others soon came, and before long their numbers stretched a block on both sides of Mechanic Street in front of Harrisonville’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
People drove from three or four counties away. Buses arrived, bellowing exhaust into the cold, bringing loads of schoolkids and senior citizens. People took off work. Some brought dogs. Farmers parked pickups nearby.
It wasn’t a fire, but a burning sense of what was the decent thing to do for one of their own who had given his all.
By 9 a.m., an hour before the funeral of Army Cpl. Jacob R. Carver, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people, many of them waving American flags, lined nearly a half-mile of the street in front of the church, making sure Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church/family congregation were crowded out, peacefully kept far from shouting distance of the funeral.
“This soldier died so (Phelps) could do what he does, as stupid as that is,” said Steve Nothnagel of Harrisonville as he looked at the turnout. “I’m so proud of what is happening here today. This is a community coming together. I know it’s not just Harrisonville; they’re coming from all over.”
The call had gone out by word of mouth and Facebook: Come to Harrisonville, line the streets. Let’s protect this family on this saddest of days.
Not long ago, the same strategy against Phelps was pulled off in Weston. As one woman that day said: “We’re like any small town. We fight a little between ourselves. But today, we’re all together.”
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