Salil pictured in the background in Carlisle, SC in 1993. Reflecting on his experiences in America that year and since Salil writes, "My favorite part of the North American Peace Run is when we run through the south. South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and more. Nowhere in the world have I felt the hearts of the people are larger, more loving, kinder and more beautiful than in the American South. And predominantly it is African Americans who have moved me so much in this region.
I remember a perfect morning with heavy dew on the thick green grass that bordered the quiet country road on which I was carrying the torch. It was early May in 1993 when I was running into the small town of Carlisle South Carolina. The only other team member with me for that section was Gary Pedroni and he had driven into town to scope out if there was a reception.
As I was running westward on Rte 72 with the sun warming my back I came across a young African American man about my age Ifar right in the picture above) walking towards me. He was dressed in a very clean navy blue uniform you might expect to see tradesman wear - all the way down to his work boots.
I smiled and waved as I went by thinking he was on his way to work. Without a word he fell in beside me and began running. We still had about a mile into town. I gave him the torch and asked him if he knew about the Peace Run. He smiled shyly and said the Mayor told him to come out, meet me and run.
Another 300 meters and there was another young man similarly attired and he joined as well. This scene repeated itself all the way into town where we had about 8 or 9 people all running with the torch.
We arrived at the Carlisle town hall where another 10 or so people were waiting and there was Gary as surprised by this heartfelt gathering as I was.
A well dressed dignified African American woman of about 55 or 60 years seemed to be running the show. It turned out she was the Mayor of Carlisle (pictured in the foreground above).
She invited us all to stand in a circle. She gave us about 30 seconds before looking at our effort disapprovingly and said sternly, “I used to be a school teacher and this ain’t no circle!” We sprang to attention and organized ourselves in a fashion that met with her approval.
She then proceeded to lead us in a most heartfelt ceremony with prayers and gospel songs. She invited each of us to share our feelings about peace. This was followed by simple wholesome refreshments.
I remember at the end of the Peace Run in New York of that year Gary said to me, “No matter what happens, we’ve always got Carlisle South Carolina.” I understood then that this experience had also deeply impacted him.
The 1993 Peace Run was my first in the South and I feel this moment was the beginning of my love for the South.