Heal­ing be­gins at site of Charleston tragedy

Wor­shipers re­turn to church four days af­ter nine peo­ple were shot and killed there.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Tan­fani and Molly Hen­nessy- Fiske

CHARLESTON, S. C. — Singing, cry­ing and cling­ing to one another for so­lace, a griev­ing con­gre­ga­tion re­turned to “Mother Emanuel” on Sun­day, de­ter­mined to re­store the his­toric church from a mur­der scene to a place of wor­ship.

An overf low crowd packed the Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church just four days af­ter a young man spout­ing racist ide­ol­ogy came to a Bi­ble study class and me­thod­i­cally killed nine peo­ple.

For some parish­ioners, it was too soon to re­turn. But Feli­cia Bree­land, a re­tired mu­sic teacher and third­gen­er­a­tion mem­ber of Emanuel, said she never con­sid­ered stay­ing home.

“I wanted to come,” said Bree­land, 81, wear­ing a white dress and hat. “That gun­man could not change us from com­ing to­gether and hav­ing our church ser­vice.”

Se­cu­rity was tight, with po­lice sta­tioned around the church and near the pulpit. Back­packs and cam­eras weren’t al­lowed in­side. A quiet crowd climbed Mother Emanuel’s stairs and sat fan­ning them­selves in the sum­mer heat.

When the sanc­tu­ary was full, wor­shipers were ush­ered down­stairs to the fel­low­ship hall — the same room where the Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney and eight oth­ers were shot Wed­nes­day night.

Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple f illed the street out­side, sweat­ing in the sun and lis-

ten­ing to the pro­ceed­ings over loud­speak­ers. There were cu­ri­ous tourists and oth­ers who lis­tened in­tently, rais­ing their hands in prayer.

At 10 a. m., church bells tolled for nine min­utes through­out Charleston — known as the “Holy City” be­cause of its many churches — and across South Carolina.

Charleston Mayor Joseph Ri­ley, Gov. Nikki Ha­ley, Sen. Tim Scott ( R- S. C.) and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Rick San­to­rum were among those at the ser­vice. So was Cor­nell Wil­liam Brooks, na­tional leader of the NAACP.

Un­der big stained glass win­dows and mu­rals of the cru­ci­fix­ion and the res­ur­rec­tion, el­der pas­tor Norvel Goff be­gan with a call to re­joice as the crowd stood and clapped. He choked back tears as he read the names of those he called “the Mother Emanuel Nine.”

Cyn­thia Hurd, 54. Susie Jack­son, 87. Ethel Lance, 70. DePayne Mid­dle­ton- Doc­tor, 49. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, 41. Ty­wanza San­ders, 26. Daniel L. Sim­mons, 74. Sharonda Sin­gle­ton, 45. Myra Thompson, 59.

“I am re­minded this morn­ing about the fresh­ness of death [ which] comes like a thief in the night,” Goff said. “Many of our hearts are break­ing. Many of us are still shed­ding tears.”

“Amen!” the con­gre­gants replied.

“But no de­mon on Earth can close the doors of God’s church,” he said.

The f irst Bi­ble read­ing was from 1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans: “Quench not the spirit ... hold fast to what is good.”

“They were in the house of the Lord study­ing your word, but the devil also en­tered,” Pre­sid­ing El­der John Gil­li­son said. “The devil can­not be in con­trol of your church.”

Kay Hightower, 50, whose great- grand­fa­ther was a pas­tor of Mother Emanuel, had driven from Columbia, stay­ing overnight with friends to en­sure she would get to the ser­vice on time. But when she ar­rived, she paused. The door she usu- ally en­tered through was the one the gun­man had used. She walked through it any­way.

“We’re not let­ting any­body take us out, claim the church,” she said.

AME mem­ber Reba Martin said she be­came tear­ful when she thought about Pinck­ney, the first per­son to die. “When he came, the church pop­u­la­tion was down, and he would al­ways be so pos­i­tive,” she said. “He said, ‘ One day I’m go­ing to see this church full. There won’t be an empty seat in the house.’ And to­day was that day. And I’m sure he did see it.”

Peo­ple who typ­i­cally at­tended the Wed­nes­day night Bi­ble study spoke of nar­row misses. Thomas Rose, 66, said he usu­ally came, but last Wed­nes­day his wife took him to pray at a sis­ter church. The shoot­ing vic­tims “were all my fam­ily,” he said.

Jamila Gads­den lost her aunt, Myra Thompson, who “loved God and left here do­ing what she loved.” She

urged peo­ple to honor her aunt’s mem­ory “by con­tin­u­ing to love in­stead of hate.”

“We are very for­giv­ing, but we will not for­get,” Gads­den said.

Many visi­tors at the ser­vice were white, but mem­bers said that was not un­com­mon.

Lucinda Mag­wood, 60, a reg­is­tered nurse from nearby Johns Is­land, sat next to a stranger: Kathie Cor­ley, 69, a f lutist and for­mer mem­ber of the church from Charleston. Mag­wood is black, Cor­ley white. Cor­ley said that she was wel­comed at the church and that she wasn’t sur­prised the man who has been charged in the slay­ings, Dy­lann Roof, was wel­comed too You would think a house of wor­ship is a sanc­tu­ary,” Mag­wood said.

Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters ( DLos An­ge­les) called it “a won­der­ful, in­spir­ing ser­vice.”

“We must work to­gether — no tragedy should ren­der us help­less,” Wa­ters said.

Tycely Wil­liams, 40, f lew from Washington, D. C., to honor her great- grand­fa­ther, a pre­sid­ing el­der at Emanuel AME, on Fa­ther’s Day. She said she grew up in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., af­ter the white su­prem­a­cists’ 1963 bomb­ing of the 16th Street Bap­tist Church there, which killed four lit­tle girls.

The bomb­ing lin­gered in her mother’s mind, Wil­liams said.

“My mother al­ways called me back down the hall when she sent me off to Sun­day school,” she said. “This too is a com­mu­nity that will never re­cover.”

Atlee Prince Jr. of Sa­van­nah, Ga., drove to Charleston on Sun­day, ar­riv­ing af­ter the ser­vice in the city where he had lived for 15 years.

“I needed to be here, to in­hale the pain and the sor­row, but also the hope,” said Prince, dap­per in a seer­sucker jacket, white linen slacks, blue striped tie and match­ing pocket square.

Prince said he was amazed by the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies’ and the black com­mu­nity’s abil­ity to for­give.

“It’s an abil­ity born out of a lot of ‘ op­por­tu­ni­ties’ to for­give,” he said. “Like any­thing, the more you have to do it, the bet­ter you get.”

Bree­land, the re­tired mu­sic teacher, called Sun­day’s ser­vice “a good be­gin­ning of heal­ing.” But, she said, “it’s go­ing to take awhile.”

Mem­bers of Ci­tadel Square Bap­tist Church next door came over in a pro­ces­sion, leav­ing bou­quets of daisies and em­brac­ing AME mem­bers, in­clud­ing Gads­den.

“We came to let you know we love you and God has great things in store for your church,” said Ann Spinks, 67, a re­tiree from James Is­land.

Out­side Mother Emanuel, a crowd broke into a ren­di­tion of “Amaz­ing Grace.”

Charleston’s heal­ing con­tin­ued Sun­day night, when thou­sands of smil­ing peo­ple, some singing “This Lit­tle Light of Mine,” clasped hands across the Ravenel Bridge as a sym­bol of unity.

Geno Porter, 23, an elec­tri­cal engi­neer from North Charleston, was among the di­verse crowd on the span link­ing Charleston to Mount Pleas­ant.

“I’m hop­ing that this will bring up con­ver­sa­tions we’ve never had be­fore, is­sues of race and in­equal­ity,” Porter said. “They do ex­ist through­out the coun­try. We’ve got to have the courage to have the con­ver­sa­tions.”

‘ I needed to be here, to in­hale the pain and the sor­row, but also the hope.’

— Atlee Prince Jr. on com­ing to Charleston, S. C.,

on Sun­day

Paul Zoeller Pool Photo

WOR­SHIPERS FILL the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S. C. Hun­dreds more stood out­side, lis­ten­ing to the Sun­day ser­vice via loud­speak­ers.

Curtis Comp­ton At­lanta Jour­nal- Con­sti­tu­tion

CRISSA JACK­SON, left, Cyn­thia Coates and Cyn­thia Jack­son em­brace and pray while wait­ing in line for the doors at Emanuel AME to open.

Mladen Antonov AFP/ Getty I mages

A CROSS bears notes left by mourn­ers out­side the church. Later, thou­sands of peo­ple clasped hands across a bridge in the Charleston area in a show of unity.


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