BY PAUL A. BARRA
COLUMBIA — Two months ago, the young adult daughters of Christine Sanders, a teacher at St. Martin de Porres School, failed to return from work one night. On Oct. 26, the family found out that what they had feared in the private recesses of their minds was true: Two fishermen discovered Candy Sanders’ car in Cabin Branch Creek, four miles from the family home. The bodies of Candy and her sister Dawn were still inside.
The discovery left friends with conflicted feelings.
“There’s sadness, of course, but they are also relieved to know that no sinister acts were committed against them. Their deaths were a pure accident, an act of God,” said St. Martin’s principal Sandra Leatherwood.
Students from St. Martin and recent alumni sang at the funeral for Candy, 24, and Dawn, 18. Many faculty, staff and parents attended the services. Margaret Adams, Ph.D., director of schools for the Diocese of Charleston also attended. Leatherwood said that the funeral was “a joyous homegoing.”
“It was not a solemn affair, a mourning,” the administrator said. “It was a celebration of life. Christine and William Sanders walked behind the caskets rejoicing that their daughters lived a good life and are now in the peace of the Lord.”
Leatherwood acknowledged that there were some neighborhood expressions of unhappiness with the police in the hours following the discovery of the bodies. The night they died was rainy and the curve is sharp where their Escort apparently left the road and hit two trees before turning over and plunging into the water.
“Some in the community were critical of the police. Why didn’t they conduct a ground search sooner? If they had found the girls earlier, they would still have been dead, but the parents would have been able to see them. But now, we are hearing that instead of anger with the authorities, maybe we should work for a change in the system,” she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, though, are not indulging in recriminations, according to Leatherwood. She called them intelligent people who think about others; they are hoping that some good will come of their tragedy.
Still, the students at St. Martin de Porres, a small, mostly black elementary school, are grieving the loss of their friends and mentors. Who will explain life’s inequities to these children?
“Christine Sanders,” Leatherwood said. “She’s a wonderful teacher, dedicated and caring. She’ll nurture them the way she always has.”