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Riding in a Floyd County Fire Department poker run in 2011 (Photo by Monica Goad)

Live and let live.

That simple statement has long defined life in Floyd County, Virginia.

And it may be a way of life that is also, more than ever, under attack.

Floyd is a haven of free thinkers, those who defy limits on free speech and those who encourage independence of thought.

It is a diverse culture, a place where unique individuals co-exist with traditionalists and fundamentalists.

I welcomed that reality when I returned to Floyd in 2004.  Amy and I made good, lasting friends.  I re-established friendships from the days when I lived here first from 1952-1858 and again from 1962-65.

After a chance encounter with a black cow in the night on U.S. 221 between Cave Spring and Bent Mountain in late 2004, I saw those friendships bring support, prayers and friendships as I lay in a coma for two weeks and 49 days in the hospital.

My recovery over the last two years, eight months and 28 days has been difficult mentally, physically and spiritually. I have questioned my lifestyle, my faith and my place in life.  Large chunks of my memory remain distant or gone from a traumatic brain injury, my moods shift and my judgment meanders.

Those of you who came forward to help did not waver.  You were there for Amy and I throughout.  Your kindness and support meant more than we can ever fully acknowledge or properly thank.

In the last week or so, I have had to take a hard look in the mirror.  I didn’t like what I saw.  I was too judgmental, too quick to find fault and too willing to attack.

I am, and always have been, hard-headed and outspoken but I tried to temper those traits with objectivity or reason. I strayed from those traits and it led to an error that needed correction and retraction this week along with necessary apologies.

I jumped too quickly on the bandwagon of those who want to erase part of history of the Civil War.  While I agree that racists often use the Confederate Flag as their symbol I ignored those who support it for other, valid reasons.

I am, and always will be, an enemy of racism.  That was ingrained into my soul as a young student in Prince Edward County when the public schools were closed by a racist school board and only whites received an education via a county-funded private school.

But my bias led to writings recently that cast others as racist unfairly.  I did not fully investigate incidents or comments thoroughly and people were hurt by what I wrote.  Some have received threats against themselves or their children. That is wrong and if my articles led to such actions my bias and lack of objectivity are too blame.

Yes, I think the Confederate flag is too often used as a symbol of bias and racial hatred but I also failed to understand that others see it differently.

I’m a longtime motorcyclist who rides with friends who have Confederate patches on their leather vests.  I know them well enough to know they are not racists but my writings painted a wide swath that said they were.  I was wrong and I apologize to each and every one.

I will continue to write about incidents that involve racism or racial overtones but I will also work harder to make sure such reporting includes both sides of the debate.

And, please, do not ever let me forget that this is my home and one with good friends and neighbors who were there for me when I was close to death in 2012. I will try to be there in their times of need.

Floyd is a unique place where we live and let live.  I forgot that.  I’m sorry. I pledge to work as hard as I can to make sure that does not happen again.