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Remembering Sabrina
The inaugural issue of the post-merger Connect Savannah, Oct. 2001, with cover story by Sabrina Simmons

IN OCTOBER 2001, a local paper named Connect Savannah merged with another local paper named Creative Loafing (which I edited at the time) to create the product you're looking at now.

While the new paper retained the name of one of the parent papers, the result of the merger was a product which was unlike the prior incarnation of Connect Savannah.

To properly introduce the new paper, I chose a cover story and accompanying photo essay by a local writer and photographer named Sabrina Manganella Simmons.

Titled “Song of Sandfly,” the two–part series explored, through images, text, and quotes, the feelings and concerns of African–American residents of the southside community called Sandfly about controversial plans for development there and the potential impact of that development on their neighborhoods.

The series was Sabrina at her finest: A compassionate yet intense focus on the problems of real people; an ability to put people at ease and capture their true essence through her lens; and writing which was straightforward yet evocative, emotional without being maudlin.

Sabrina was the perfect choice for the launch because she was the ideal reader of the new Connect Savannah: A young, well–educated, creative person who was curious about the world and the community around her.

She went on to write many more things for us over the ensuing near–decade, including a photo essay on the efforts of the local nonprofit AWOL, a piece on the tribulations of the North American Right Whale off the Georgia coast, and an exploration of the questionable impact of standardized tests in the schools.

In a tragedy which nearly defies description and all human understanding, Sabrina was killed in an auto accident Aug. 21 in Evans County, Ga. She was 39 years old.

She leaves behind her husband of 17 years, Jack Simmons, a professor at AASU, and their two young daughters, Savannah and Mary.

For those of you who didn’t know her, here’s why our loss is your loss as well:

In a town where so many talk about being creative rather than actually creating anything, where so much is promised but often so little delivered, Sabrina was a clear exception.

Others talk about getting into organic farming. She actually did it: raising chickens for fresh eggs in a backyard coop, tenderly planting rows of vegetables in the front yard.

Others moan about the big banks and Wall Street. She actually “took the pledge” and moved her money into credit unions and community banks.

Others complain about local schools. She became a substitute teacher and immediately began making a difference in the lives of local children.

Others talk about all the things they’d like to do to become more involved. She actually did something by joining various local boards, such as Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy.

In short, others talk about doing things to make the world a better place. Sabrina actually did them. This is her legacy, and the reason Sabrina will always be one of my role models.

A million priests and a million rabbis could take the next million years attempting to explain why horrible things happen to good people, why the best people so often leave us at such a young age. I don’t think any of them would get one iota closer to making sense of it.

Everyone whose life was touched by Sabrina is overwhelmingly sad today about losing her: sad for her family, sad for the community, and sad, frankly, for the world, which cannot afford to lose any more good-hearted, effective bringers of positive change.

I admit that I’m angry as well — livid and furious that tragedies like this happen to the best people among us, while the worst people continue to have everything handed to them.

Hopefully I can follow Sabrina’s example and do something constructive about it, instead of just talking.