Four years later: A day the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken

State - Regional

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – It has been four years since a gunman opened fire, killing nine people at a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.

On June 17, 2015, the Holy City, the state of South Carolina and the country was torn apart.

It was a hot summer day when worshipers went to a historic church, Mother Emanuel AME, for bible study.

Just after 8:00 p.m., convicted church shooter Dylann Roof walked into the church and sat in the prayer meeting for an hour before opening fire.

“We were just about to say a prayer and be released. He caught us with our eyes closed,” remembered Felicia Sanders, who survived the massacre.

“Your granddaughter was with you?”

“Yes, I heard every shot. Every. Single. Shot,” she said.

Joe Riley, who was the mayor of Charleston at that time, said that day was the saddest day of his life.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said.

Almost two hours after the shooting, police released a description of Roof who was on the run.

At 12:45 Thursday morning, the extent of the tragedy was revealed from then-Police Chief Greg Mullen.

Three man, six women.  

Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, SharondaColeman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.

“This is the most unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy,” said Mayor Riley.

As the day dawned we learned Roof was from Lexington and by midday…

“We got him,” announced Mayor Riley.

“I cannot say how thankful I am and how appreciative I am of all the people that came together during a tragic situation,” said Chief Mullen.

And the healing process began.

“No act will ever destroy the foundation of this church.”

Thousands of people came together to stand together against the face of this tragedy.

But, what people will always remember is the moment a victim’s family member forgave the gunman in the courtroom.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you.”

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