Days after attack at US church, grief hangs in the air

World Today

Roses and crime scene tape are laced through the wrought iron fence at the memorial on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church, Saturday, June 20, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. People started visiting the site well before sunrise four days after a gunman shot and killed nine people during a Bible study session at the church on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

People prayed, dropped colorful flowers and wrote inspirational notes on Saturday at the black church where nine people were fatally shot earlier this week at the end of a Bible study meeting.

The memorial in front of the “Mother” Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church continued to grow, and a steady stream of people passed by to pay their respects. The church was to open Sunday morning for the first time since the shooting, with Sunday school and morning services scheduled, parishioner Cassie Watson, 69, said.

On Saturday, more than a dozen people — presumably congregation members, including Watson — trickled into the church. They used a parking lot that’s still closed to the public and then a side door on the street to enter the building after a cleaning crew had worked on it. Authorities say Roof also used a street-level side door.

On Friday, some of the family members of the shooting victims got a chance to speak to Roof at his bail hearing. Because he appeared via videoconference, he could not see them speak, but he could hear them.

“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” said Felecia Sanders, who survived the attack, but lost her son Tywanza. “You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same.”

“Tywanza was my hero.”

Other family members offered forgiveness and mercy to Roof. One even told Roof to repent and confess, and “you’ll be OK.”

Hours after the bond hearing, thousands of people filled a basketball arena for a community vigil for the victims. Those in attendance were white and black, young and old.

The victims included the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator who doubled as the church’s lead pastor, and eight others who played multiple roles in their families and communities: ministers and coaches, teachers and a librarian, counselors and choir singers and the elderly sexton who made sure the church was kept clean.

A police affidavit released on Friday accused Roof of shooting all nine multiple times, and making a “racially inflammatory statement” as he stood over an unidentified survivor.

Report by Associated Press.


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