Emanuel AME: A Year of Healing

Emanuel AME - Year of Healing

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- There are little trinkets and flowers that suddenly appear outside Mother Emanuel most days, little mementos to Myra and Daniel, Sharonda and Clementa. There are passers-by from out of town who stop to look up at the bright white structure standing against Charleston's brilliant blue skies on a sunny day, and others, locals probably, who shuffle on past the scene of so much heartache and pain - and change. Sundays are marked with the sounds of music and scripture.

A year later, a year after the shooting rampage at Emanuel AME Church, this is a community learning to live and trying to heal.

Here are not only the mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who lost beloved family members on that hot June night but also a community that has somehow found something inside itself that makes it possible to give.

The giving started almost immediately as people of all ages, races, and religions felt compelled to make personal tributes to the church and the victims.

Items piled up along the sidewalk on Calhoun Street as hundreds of people ducked under crime scene tape to leave flowers, Mylar balloons, and countless written messages.

What began as a flood has slowed to a trickle outside Mother Emanuel, but behind the scenes people are working to find a home for the tributes. After all, much of it is museum-worthy.

"Everybody just have a different way of expressing their love," says a janitor as he unlocks a door for Liz Alston, the historian and archivist for Emanuel AME.

The janitor's matter-of-fact statement does nothing to prepare Alston for what lies beyond the lilac door of a storage room at the St. Julian Devine Community Center. Six thousand artifacts are in storage; all have been left for the church since June 17.

"Artifacts, pictures, books, blankets, portraits, paintings, poems, letters," Alston said. "They have been left in front of the church. They have been mailed. They come to the church and make presentations to them."

With a room full of memorials and keepsakes all recognizing a horrifying loss for one of Charleston's oldest and most important churches, Alston has strong emotions just entering the room.

"I feel a sense of inclusiveness. I feel a sense of forgiveness because these artifacts in this room represent how the world feels about Emanuel," she said.

Many days, Alston stands in the packed room, surrounded by handmade signs and rolls of posters. There are stuffed bears tucked away behind stacks of cardboard boxes full of letters and notes. Each one is an outstretched arm of support from every corner of the world.

"I would like to thank the world public for their generosity, for their caring," she said.

But each one is also an arm pulling Alston and the team of archivists back into the night of June 17, 2015.

It's a labor of love and pain that Alston shoulders for Emanuel's congregation, the victims of the shooting, and the survivors - who are still battling the demons of that night.

"Can you imagine the fear Felicia had with her 11-year-old grandchild beneath her as blood splattered all over her? As 77 shots rang out, fearful that the child would cry out or whimper? Can you imagine that?" said Andy Savage.

Savage is a well-known and respected attorney, but his role since the shooting has been one of protector, taking the responsibility of representing many of the victims' families and survivors as the case against 22-year-old Dylann Storm Roof works its way through the court system.

"Polly's alive because he made a choice that he'd leave a survivor to tell the world the horrible acts he did."

Savage says Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, the only adult survivors of the attack on the church, are doing well, but admits they were taken aback by the Department of Justice's decision last month to seek the death penalty.

"Both their lives are on hold right now. They've been asked by the people prosecuting the cases to remain low profile," Savage said.

Sheppard, at least for now, does not attend services at Emanuel, but Savage says that doesn't mean she won't return at some point in the future.

"Remember, these people are experiencing something that none of us have experienced," he said.

Sanders, though, has tried to return to the sanctuary but it's still a terrifying experience to be in the place where nine people she knew through blood and through God were killed at a time they were studying the Bible.

"Felicia, she'll be mad at me for saying this, but two weeks before Easter I went with her to Emanuel," Savage said. "She was concerned she shouldn't drink anything because she didn't want to be in a position to have to use the restroom. That's because the restroom is downstairs from the sanctuary and that's where it all took place."

Faith is still the center of gravity for Sanders and Sheppard, and still guides them in their lives much like it served as a guide for everyone who responded to the church last June.

Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley had only six months left in office when he got the call from the police chief on his landline at home that something terrible had happened.

He had on shorts and a lightweight shirt, trying to deal with the blistering heat of June. He got up and stared at his closet, knowing he had to put on a suit.

He was headed to church, after all.

"It's hard to unsee what happened here. It's so heartbreaking and mind-searing," Riley said. "We just left speaking with member of the family. It's a heartbreaking scene I have never witnessed in my life before."

The weight, at times, is still as clearly visible on Riley's face now as it was then.

"That's how it began, the longest night of my life," Riley said.

The words he used the most - heart-broken. The man who ran to unite a city racially more than 40 years ago was again at a crossroads.

"If that young man thought he was going to divide this community or divide this country with his racial hatred, we are here today and all across America to resoundingly say he miserably failed," Riley said several times in the days after the attack at Emanuel.

He faced reporters and cameras at every turn in exhausting heat under a summer sun that never gave him reprieve by ducking behind a cloud. Every time, he answered questions with calls for love and kindness.

While standing in the summer sun - June 2015 was stiflingly hot - in a suit facing dozens of reporters and cameras was difficult, the hardest moments came while he stood in front of those Emanuel AME family members in the early hours after the shooting when he had to tell them there were nine dead.

"And so I told them that first of all that we were going to love each other, that we would always be at their side, that we would find the killer and that we would get through this through love and prayer," Riley said.

But in those moments, even Riley wasn't aware how deeply the shooting would affect him, the congregation, and the state. Riley said after talking with family members, he started asking when Rev. Clementa Pinckney would arrive at the hotel.

The Senate had been in session earlier in the day and many assumed Emanuel's pastor had stayed in Columbia to finish the work of governing, Riley included.

However, Pinckney made the trip to his church and had been killed in the shooting.

"And I ended up realizing that I knew many of those whose lives were taken - one who worked at the auditorium, I knew from the auditorium I'd get a hug from her every time I was in there; and Cynthia Hurd I knew when she was a teenager working at Swensen's selling ice cream working through college," Riley said.

It was shortly after midnight. That would be the first time Riley would step up to a makeshift podium in the middle of the street to explain what had happened in the church and what would come next.

He said it had to be perfect. They were.

Riley says he will never forget Vice President Joe Biden's words to him.

"He said, 'You know Joe, yesterday the president of the Ukraine called me and asked me to explain how this violent act could occur in a city in America and violence didn't erupt because of that," he recalled.

The world watched Charleston, waiting for an act of retaliation that never came.

Riley credits the instant outpouring of charity and acts of grace and goodness as what made the difference between Charleston and any other city that would have erupted into widespread violence.

It's a lesson that was being taught on the night of the shooting in the church's basement. Myra Thompson, who had just earned her license to preach, was looking forward to leading the 8 p.m. Bible study after spending years at the blackboard. It was going to be her first time leading the study at Emanuel.

By all accounts, Thompson was a strong woman with a big personality and broad smile. It's how her son Kevin Singleton wants her to be remembered.

"She meant what she said. She imposed rules in her household that must be followed," Singleton said.

Singleton looks back fondly on the days living on campus at Benedict College while Thompson was a student. She would go on to earn three degrees, be licensed to teach, and foster a passion for helping the less fortunate.

But foremost, Singleton says she was a disciplinarian who lived by the good book. Thompson was also a lifelong member of Mother Emanuel.

"The beginning, the middle, I don't want to say it was the end as well. That's what makes it so heartbreaking. She loved that church," Singleton said.

June 17 was supposed to be a happy day at Emanuel. Thompson had finally achieved a major milestone in her life and her faith and had the opportunity to lead her first Bible study on the same day she was ordained.

A small group gathered in the church basement that evening after the regular Wednesday service, including a young man none of the regular congregants had ever seen before. The basement is well worn with years of service to a faithful community that has antebellum roots and ties to the legacies of Denmark Vesey and Rev. Morris Brown. Investigators say Mother Emanuel was targeted by Roof because of its rich history and importance to the black community.

Before the world knew his name, he was a small young man, white, wearing long pants and a gray sweater at a Bible study in Mother Emanuel's basement. It was an odd fashion choice for June in Charleston but the group welcomed him nonetheless.

Sitting in a circle, the group prayed and read from the Bible. Thompson's focus that night was the parable of the four soils found in the Book of Mark, a lesson to the disciples that the reception of the word of God is determined by a man's heart.

Salvation comes not in hearing the gospel but in proving it, she taught the group.

An hour passed. It was nearly 9 p.m. by the time investigators say Roof stood up, pulled out a handgun gifted to him by his family, and opened fire on the group.

Nine were dead. Three were spared, in some sense of the word.

By the time Singleton learned of the tragedy, Roof was on his way out of state, on the run, and according to his attorneys, planning to kill himself.

"It just felt like my heart was taken out of my body. I remember getting in the shower with all my clothes on because I couldn't breathe," Singleton said.

By the time Singleton made his way downtown and was ushered into the Embassy Suites, where police and city officials had borrowed space to gather distraught and scared family members who needed to be kept out of the media spotlight as they waited for word on who had survived the shooting, Police Chief Greg Mullen was organizing one of the largest multi-agency manhunts to ever take place in the Palmetto State.

Mullen was sitting on his couch at home watching television with his wife when the deputy chief called him and told him he needed to be at Emanuel. The shooting was only minutes old at that point.

"To learn when I arrived downtown that a person not only walked into a church and murdered nine people, he sat with them for over an hour and had face to face conversation with them, and then after a period stood up and killed them," Mullen said. "That was something that was unimaginable."

On one hand, Mullen had to bear the responsibility of joining Riley when they met with the families of the victims. It's a moment that still brings tears to the police chief's face.

"When we told them that there was nine people deceased inside the church, I can't even describe the reaction. You couldn't - it was horrible to watch the first time that people knew that their loved ones probably were not going to be coming home," he said.

On the other hand, Mullen had to protect an entire city because somewhere out there was the person responsible. In those earliest hours after the shooting, police did not know much about the shooter.

"We didn't know where the shooter was. We didn't know if there were one or multiple shooters. We didn't know if they were still in the area," Mullen said.

Mother Emanuel sits on busy Calhoun Street, a road that bisects the peninsula, between the popular Marion Square and East Bay Street, which leads to the Ravenel Bridge and Mount Pleasant. On the other side of the park is King Street, a straight shot onto Interstate 26. Within a mile of the church are nearly two dozen more.

The shooter could have been on the run or making his way to another church. Mullen had to anticipate everything and be ready to react.

What Mullen did know, however, was that he had the full support and cooperation of every local, state, and federal law enforcement officer as the manhunt began.

Mullen's reaction and the way he coordinated officers from countless agencies was something that had been in development for nearly a decade.

It's something he talked about months later at The Citadel.

"That didn't happen overnight. That was not because of the shooting, but because of leadership over time to establish trust and respect and the ability to work together in a time of crisis to make things happen for this community," Mullen told cadets during a leadership in crisis seminar.

The result of years of teamwork meant there were no egos as different agencies collaborated in Charleston, and no one asking who was in charge. It was all about being a team and quickly finding the person who attacked Mother Emanuel, he said.

And then there was the first bomb threat.

"As we were preparing to address the crime scene and the family members, we received a bomb threat that there would be an explosion at 11 p.m. at the church," Mullen said.

It meant halting the investigation on the ground and pushing everyone back away from the church. More than an hour had elapsed at that point and there were dozens of onlookers and members of the media gathering behind yellow caution tape.

And then there was a second bomb threat.

By then, word had spread around the world of the mass shooting in Charleston. Reporters and TV crews from cable, network, and international news agencies covering presidential hopefuls spilled out of their hotels onto Calhoun Street. Usually it would have taken a day to get a non-local news crew to the scene, but with Hillary Clinton making a stop in South Carolina hours earlier and other candidates planning campaign events later that week, there were satellite trucks and reporters filling the street by 10 p.m.

Mid-June is also the height of tourist season in the historic port city. The annual Spoleto Festival had wrapped up 10 days earlier. That meant the hotels were full and people were everywhere, even late at night.

Like Riley, it was the hardest and longest day of Mullen's career.

"It is from the beginning to the day it has been very different than anything I have ever experienced and I can't think of anything that would be more difficult than this," Mullen said.

"And then to look at the victims themselves, who they were. They were all very much pillars of the community. They were the backbone of their families. And for them to be taken away simply because someone has a hateful ideology was just unimaginable."

Nine hours later, with the sun just starting to crest over the water at the Maritime Center a few blocks from Emanuel, Mullen, Riley, Gov. Nikki Haley, and others stepped to a podium to say they were able to release surveillance photos of Roof and his car.

It was just after 6 a.m., and as Rev. Norvell Goff told so many people in prayer services, vigils, and funerals in the coming weeks - joy comes in the morning.

"We have some difficult days ahead. But the only way for evil to win is for good folk to sit down and do nothing," Goff said the Sunday following the shooting from the sanctuary of Emanuel.

It had been a long night, but having a credible lead to start the daylight hours of June 18 gave Riley and Mullen a renewed spirit and sharper focus. It was evident on their faces. It was in one of those morning updates that the world learned a little more about the victims: six women, three men.

By 10 a.m., the spread of surveillance images of the suspect had given police a name: Dylann Storm Roof.

While police performed security sweeps around Morris Brown AME in downtown Charleston ahead of a prayer service that the governor would attend, word spread over social media that Roof had been taken into custody in the North Carolina town of Shelby, west of Charlotte.

His capture was by chance.

A Kings Mountain florist running late for work spotted a young white man in a black Hyundai with South Carolina plates. The man had a bowl haircut. She called her boss, who in turn called a Kings Mountain police officer he knew who relayed the information to a Shelby dispatcher.

"Hey Shelby, this is Officer Davis at Kings Mountain," Shane Davis says in one of the released 911 calls. "I know it's strange, but I just got a call on my personal cell phone and it's secondhand information but a lady called a friend of mine and said she's behind a car matching the description of the Charleston killer: white male, early 20s, bowl haircut."

Within 20 minutes, Roof was in custody and dash cam video shows Shelby police officers fist-pumping and high-fiving.

That sentiment was echoed at Morris Brown AME. The noon prayer vigil had been delayed, and when people learned it was because city and state leaders were telling the world Roof had been caught, there were hugs and tears, a celebration of relief and justice as thousands of people stood and cheered.

Back at the Maritime Center, Riley, Mullen, and Haley no longer looked tired. Haley had tears in her eyes as she told the world South Carolina woke up with broken hearts, but could rest easy knowing Roof was in custody.

That afternoon, the coroner's office released the names of the nine killed: Cythia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharanoda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

Three hours later, around 7:30 p.m., Roof was securely in the Charleston County jail and placed in an isolation cell on suicide watch.

Where Roof's name was on the tip over every tongue during daylight hours, Chris Singleton's name dominated the night when he stepped in front of a handful of cameras on a baseball field.

In the hardest moment of his young life, Singleton introduced the world to his mother, Sharonda, through the message of love and forgiveness.

"Love is always stronger than hate, if we love the way my Mom would, the hate won't be anywhere close to what the love is," Singleton said just 24 hours after his mother and eight others were killed.

Surrounded by his Charleston Southern teammates and coaches just inside the first base line at the Danny Jones Complex, Singleton was a 19-year-old who matured in an instant and found a way to tell the city what it needed to hear most.

From his mouth on a ballfield in North Charleston to the collective hearts, souls, and conscience of a world stunned by an act of hatred, Singleton showed true maturity and unfathomable character.

To understand Singleton's reaction takes a look at the woman who raised him.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton wasn't just a mom to three children; she was a mother figure to countless others as a teacher and track coach at Goose Creek High School.

Her interest in athletics carried her through much of her life. She ran track at South Carolina State University, even making it to a conference championship.

By the time she joined the staff of Goose Creek High School she had become an advocate for her children and her students, always asking them to excel on and off the track. For Singleton, "Lil Chris" as she called him, it meant developing into a two-sport star that led to an offer from Charleston Southern.

On Singleton's senior night, Coleman-Singleton carried a single rose in one hand and locked arms with her son with the other. At the end of a vigil held by Goose Creek High School the day after the shooting, Singleton stepped out of the school's gymnasium with his younger brother and sister and a group of friends and walked to a memorial that had been set up at the school's track.

He carried with him a single flower.

"She was a great coach, she was an even better mother," he said.

The events of June 17 and the day after put Singleton and his brother and sister in a media whirlwind that included ESPN specials, Today Show appearances, and batting practice with the New York Yankees.

Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner called Singleton an inspiration the world could learn from.

"It's kind of like a dream I just woke up from and I'm still dreaming. It's really been cool for me. When it all happened, I didn't have much time to stop and think which is good, because that's when things really hit you," Singleton said.

"This is a great little getaway. She'd be smiling because when we were happy, she was happy."

But the dream would end and Singleton would go back to his life in Charleston.

With a new school year starting, the Singletons tried to get back to life like it had been but without Coleman-Singleton there it meant Caleb and Camryn moving to Atlanta to live with their aunt and Chis staying at Charleston Southern with his baseball family.

"Some mornings it's hard for me when I wake up, but I have a picture of my Mom on the wall so that's been a big help for me," Singleton said in February.

He knew on opening day all eyes would be on him as he returned to the game he loved for the first time since the shooting. He downplayed any nerves he had before the game, saying he knew there was pressure to play well but adding he was excited to play.

Then Singleton delivered a game-winning RBI against national powerhouse West Virginia. It was an amazing night for Singleton, the CSU program, and fans that showed up to watch the game.

"I don't give away many game balls, but I had to give one to Chris Singleton," said CSU coach Stuart Lake. "As a coach and dad, I'm just proud to go over there and see him succeed today."

In a rough year for CSU, Singleton's season stood out, setting him above others as all-star-worthy. He hit .332 with 34 RBIs on the season.

His season could be described as inspired.

He carried with him two crosses in every game, reminders that there are plenty of support structures around him when his faith alone isn't enough.

Singleton said during the school year he would take a trip to the CSU baseball field to calm his nerves any time he felt overwhelmed. It's appropriate he would find comfort there, but not because it's at the center of the sport he loves. Instead, it's a place his mother said was good.

On the surface, baseball is the reason he's at Charleston Southern. In truth, it's only part of the reason.

During recruiting, Coleman-Singleton told head baseball coach Stuart Lake that he was the coach she wanted for his son but he also had to prove that the school would provide the adequate educational rigors to set him up for a successful future.

Forever the teacher, Coleman-Singleton made sure her son would be cared for by people he - and she - could trust to continue teaching him how to be a man on and off the baseball diamond.

Like Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd wanted to see young people succeed, and as a member of the Charleston County library system she was given the opportunity to introduce generations of children to the world beyond Charleston.

Hurd was one of six children in her family living in downtown Charleston in the 1960s. Her younger brother Malcolm Graham often teased his sister about being a nerd.

"Cynthia was really fascinated with the World Book Encyclopedia. She's the only person I knew who read all 26 books A to Z," Graham said.

The love of books carried her through life and helped her rise up the ranks of the Charleston County library system to become the branch manager for one of the busiest libraries in the county.

But she was more than that to the people she served and worked with.

"Over the years she became not only my boss but a mentor. She encouraged me to apply for promotions," said Kim Odom, whom Hurd helped become branch manager at the John Dart branch when Hurd was promoted.

"She really opened up to me what library service meant, not just a building where you come for story time but a place where you really can get help."

She always stayed grounded in Charleston, working her first job at Swensen's ice cream shop before taking a board position for the Charleston Housing Authority. Since 2009, Hurd served as president of a nonprofit that helped programs secure grants in public housing.

"Cynthia was kind, giving. She was our giving tree," Odom said.

Graham, a former North Carolina state senator, said he was watching TV in Charlotte when reports of a shooting at Emanuel AME scrolled across the screen.

"It said people were feared dead, so I called Cynthia," Graham said.

It was a call that would go unanswered.

In the days following, the families would stand before Roof in bond court. Some would offer forgiveness.

Graham and Odom said they could not.

"Forgiveness is a journey. It's a destination. Some can get there a lot faster. I'm still on the road of understanding," Graham said.

Odom says she doesn't feel like she has to forgive Roof.

"I'm ok with my lord and I don't have to worry about him," she said.

The father of 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, the youngest of the slain victims at Emanuel, says he's not ready to offer forgiveness either. And he'll rest easy if he's never able to forgive Roof.

"The process of forgiveness is very hard for me. I'm not there yet," he said.

One thing holding him back is that he was not in the church that night, too.

"I wasn't there. I should have been there to hold him in my arms, to embrace him, and protect him," he said.

Still, he's calling on God to bend his heart.

It may take divine intervention for him to forgive the man accused of killing his poet son who died a hero. When Sanders faced death on June 17, he did so standing guard over his mother and great aunt.

Before Sanders went to church that Wednesday night, he was in his second home standing behind a barber's chair at Against Da Grain.

Shop owner Cavill Jones remembers Sanders as someone who was always willing to help the community.

"He was always for fundraisers and just helping out around here. He was actually helping out for an event for Father's Day but we pushed it back so we could help out the cause," Jones said.

Sanders had a bold prediction when he stepped behind the chair there, telling Darren Spencer the future was bright.

"He said, 'I'm gonna make this barber shop famous.' And I looked at him and said, 'What do you mean famous?' Spencer said. "'No, I'm gonna make it world famous,' and I just looked at him and shrugged it off."

The two men cut hair beside each other every day, including the morning on June 17.

"That was like reading a book - and not finishing it. I saw the chapters, and then reading it," Spencer said, "and the next page there's nothing."

Shirrene Goss, Sanders' sister, says not being able to see her brother build his future is hard as he perfected his skills in the barber chair, the poetry book, and on guitar. What's harder is not being able to talk to him.

"We used to say Tywanza was so deep. He would just be so philosophical about what happened," Goss said.

On the day of Sanders' death, he posted a quote from Jackie Robinson on his Instagram page: "A life is not important except in the impact is has on other lives."

Sanders' life ended in the place where he grew up alongside his cousin Raheim Arthur. Arthur says they learned everything about the Bible and what it meant to seek salvation and safe haven there.

Forgiveness is a big step right now. But Arthur says he's more focused on making sure people remember Emanuel.

"This should be something in the history books, should be something that's never forgotten," he said.

Sanders graduated from Allen University, as did Rev. Clementa Pinckey, and Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., three sons of Mother Emanuel and three generations of Allen men.

Simmons, one of the oldest members of the congregation to be killed that night, had found the good earth of his heart and devoted his life to his church and religion, as Myra Thompson was teaching the Bible study group on June 17.

His family says he was like the Apostle Paul, a humble man who devoted his life to spreading the word of the Bible. The fourth generation minister and Army veteran was known for his deliberate delivery and dedication to scripture.

"Dad was a great teacher. He loved knowledge; he spent time preparing for sermons - he taught the word," said his son, Daniel Simmons, Jr.

When he was away from the church, Simmons could often be found studying his Bible from a stool in the kitchen. One of his favorite passages, from 2 Corinthians, asks for mercy for those who do harm to others: "Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow."

Simmons' son says his father often talked about giving and caring for others. Now at peace with his death, the younger Simmons is trying to focus on his father's strengths.

"To me one of the great gifts my dad had was he was a great listener. He was also a great debater; you couldn't win an argument with him," Simmons said, laughing. "I knew that we always had that bond. Now that he's gone that bond is really missing."

For Al Miller, the relationship with Simmons Sr. was one more like brothers than cousins.

"We would talk every day just to check on each other," Miller said.

Miller owns a tour business and these days he spends part of every tour making sure his groups know the story of Dan Simmons. One story Simmons' son hopes is told is of his father's love of cars.

If Simmons was home and not sitting at the kitchen table, he could be found in the garage. There's a chair there where Simmons would sit reading the Bible and thinking about his cars.

It's an old green striped armchair pushed up against an open patch of wall. To one side, there are books and papers, his studies, and to the other a box of car cleaning supplies.

The chair sits on a corner of a small patterned rug, giving Simmons a soft place to slip off his shoes and run his bare feet as he read and thought about tinkering with his Mercedes collection.

He owned a dozen of them; now nine of them have been sent out with family members. One of Simmons' favorites is with his son in Virginia.

"In 1985, he bought that Mercedes and to date we still have it. When I got it from him, it had 585,000 (miles) on it," he said.

It's still running as smooth as ever too, with more than 900,000 miles on it.

"He used that car to go up and down and across the United States," Simmons said. "Dad loved his automobiles."

The garage no longer houses a car. But the chair and rug are still there.

While everyone knew of Simmons' love of cars, his granddaughter Alanna Simmons says his family learned about his deep love of the community only after his death. She described her grandfather as a quiet man when he worked in the community, never seeking recognition for the things he did.

"Surprisingly, after his death we found that he was a member of a lot of civic organizations and that he was very active in those organizations," she said.

But his family and his faith were always the most important pieces of his life.

Simmons, 74, would often fill in for Rev. Pinckney when the statesman was away on the business of the General Assembly. When he was home, Pinckney was the man in the pulpit as senior pastor at Mother Emanuel.

No one expected Pinckney at Emanuel on June 17. The Senate was in session and he had been working with his chamber counterparts on several bills. Even Mayor Riley first asked if Pinckney had been told about the shooting, assuming the statesman was not in the church.

But the path between downtown Charleston and Gervais Street in the state's capital is well-worn thanks to Pinckney. He traveled the highways and side roads often, tending to his flock first as their shepherd and then as their elected representative.

Beyond the church and the Statehouse, his wife Jennifer and their two daughters were his greatest joy.

On June 17, they needed someone to turn to who could be by their side and never let go. Rev. Kylon Middleton was there.

"I can never get beyond June 17," he said, recalling nearly everything that happened the night of the shooting. "I answered the phone and she was hysterical. I could not understand a word that she was saying. I was trying to get her to calm down so I could understand what she was saying and she said I need to come to Charleston right now."

On the line was Jennifer Pinckney, Rev. Pinckney's wife of 16 years. He had been shot.

Middleton did know the details, but he knew he had to get from Georgetown to Charleston as fast as he could. He admitted months later he remembered very little of that drive, but he made it safely to the Holy City.

"I got to Jennifer and we just remained there. I mean she buried herself in my chest. Malana was there and we were just clutched - literally it was so tight of a grip I can still feel it right now," Middleton said.

Of all the people Pinckney's wife could have called, close friends and family members, other clergy or statesmen, Middleton stands out.

They had been childhood friends, meeting when they were 7-year-old boys going to church youth group activities.

"We just clicked. He had a quirky way. I had a quirky way," Middleton said.

And for nearly four decades, Middleton and Pinckney were inseparable. There were graduations, births, marriages, and churches to serve. He was more than a friend, Middleton says - Pinckney was a brother.

"And there is not another. There is no one else. It would take 40 years to raise somebody up to have the same level of --," he said, his voice trailing off as he thinks about the abrupt end to a pair of lives entwined.

It's a severed bond Middleton is still trying to make sense of.

He says the last year has been surreal, but he's managed to break down only a handful of times.

"I kind of had to suck that up, recognizing that Jennifer, Malana, Eliana and Miss Benjamin - Jennifer's mother who lives with them - they needed us to be stronger than that," Middleton said.

For the Pinckneys, Middleton is now their rock. It's something Pinckney had requested just three months earlier.

"He had a terrible accident on I-20 - no one knows this - and totaled his car and literally almost lost his life on I-20. I said, 'Pinckney, we need to start discussing alternate things. What would happen if you did not survive this crash?' He said, 'You would be in charge and I would want this, this, and this.' So some of the basic things we knew from that experience, and I do think God does prepare us for alternate things," Middleton said.

That scare months before the June 17 Bible study meant Pinckney's wife and best friend had a plan and knew what to do to honor their beloved friend and husband.

What Pinckney would not have expected was his funeral, a massive tribute to a statesman and reverend attended by national and world leaders and thousands of community members in the TD Arena at College of Charleston.

During President Barack Obama's eulogy, he stopped to sing Amazing Grace, one of Pinckney's favorite hymns. It was a powerful moment during a talk that focused on building a "roadway toward a better world."

Pinckney's body also lay in state on the Statehouse rotunda before a private burial service. Thousands lined up in the summer heat outside the Statehouse to pay their respects. At times the wait was more than three hours just to get inside the building.

Pinckney's widow has declined requests for interviews, saying it would be too painful to talk about the last year. She's only spoken publicly a few times since losing her husband.

One of those times came in May when a portrait of her husband was unveiled in the South Carolina Senate chamber.

"Being the humble person that he was he would say, no not me. I'm not worthy to be hung with such greatness," she said. "I became aware he was an extraordinary dedicated and devoted person to his family, the ministry, his congregation and the state of South Carolina. They will see his bright eyes and smiling face but they will not remember the tragedy that took him from us."

The decision to honor Pinckney with a portrait was a unanimous one, a final and lasting tribute to a man who worked tirelessly at home and in Columbia to provide for those with the quietest voice.

One political battle he would not see come to fruition was the fight to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from Statehouse grounds.

But less than a month after he died, the flag came down as thousands of people cheered. It was a day 60 years in the making.

The debate to remove the flag renewed as images of Roof emerged, showing the accused killer holding the Confederate flag and espousing hateful, violent beliefs.

The debate came to a head late one night in July as defenders of the flag filed amendment after amendment to a bill to remove the flag, stalling a vote on the measure for hours. Rep. Jenny Horne, a Republican from a town outside of Charleston, stepped to the podium to speak.

"I cannot believe, that we do not have the heart in this body," she said, before pausing to sob and then yelling, "to do something meaningful such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday!"

It was that plea that spurred action, and a few days after the Fourth of July the flag came down for the final time. A 16-year fight for Pinckney was finally coming to an end.

Tears of joy rolled down cheeks in a crowd of cheers. Many said they never thought they would live to see the flag removed from Statehouse grounds completely.

President Obama called it a signal of good will and healing, and a meaningful step towards a better future.

Gov. Nikki Haley supported the measure and signed the bill to remove the flag - after years of saying the flag should be left alone.

She says the change of heart came one night after the shooting while she fielded questions from her children and then in a quiet conversation with her husband.

She says it's a message to every South Carolinian that no child would have to walk past the Statehouse and see a symbol of hate.

Nearly a year later, the emotions are still raw from that night she got a phone call about the shooting.

"It was hard because I didn't know how to protect people from (the tragedy at the church). I knew this was going to bring people to their knees, I knew that they were going to hurt and it was more than anybody could stomach," Haley said.

Haley says her chief of staff told her about the shooting at Pinckney's church, so she called him to see if she could do anything to help. She offered extra state police officers and herself to be with the families.

"I didn't know that he wouldn't get the call," Haley said.

As the world now knows, nine were dead and three survivors were left behind. It was a moment that would change a city, a state, and its leader forever.

"I think the biggest hurt for me was, not here, not South Carolina. That's not us. That's not --," she said, before her voice trailed off. "So on one part it was a sadness that it happened. On the other part it was just the families; I mean, you just couldn't stop thinking about the families."

The governor was now tasked with a new role as consoler-in-chief.

"There was no way I was going to miss a funeral, there was no way. I had to be at every funeral," she said.

After each one, she brought back a program that had the victim's face on it and sat down with her children to talk to them about the shooting, the families, and the people she met at each one.

She wanted them to know that hate had robbed many families that day, but they didn't let it define them.

"I will keep talking about the 12 people that were in that room because the ability that they had to have the courage and acceptance to bring in someone who didn't look like them or act like them and pray with him for an hour is something that will do down in history as one of the most amazing moments in South Carolina," Haley said.

While the world watched in horror as South Carolina dealt with a tragedy fueled by hate, Haley says the world didn't see the true South Carolina until after in the thousands of acts of grace, compassion and love.

She says the state had fallen to its knees in that moment, and in that moment its citizens offered everything to lift the state and the victims' families back up.

It culminated in the removal of the flag.

"What this came down to was - I know so many people think of the Confederate Flag as heritage and respect and sacrifice but that murderer hijacked that flag, and what I knew is that I could never have any kids, drive past the Statehouse, and look at that flag and think of those 12 people in that room because that is what that flag meant now," she said.

Mayor Riley said seeing the flag lowered for the final time was one of the happiest moments of his life.

"Everyone in that crowd of ten thousand people was joyful it was amazing. Not in a loud boisterous way they were just so happy in their hearts that this had happened, that the grounds of their state now had symbols for everyone," he said.

Now, the flag debate was not always civil. A week after the flag was removed, members of the KKK and the Florida-based Black Educators for Justice squared off in opposing rallies at the Statehouse.

An hour after the KKK arrived, police shut down the rally to thwart violence as the groups taunted each other. It was too late though; skirmishes broke out in the crowd and spilled out into the streets as tempers flared under the hot summer sun.

Five were arrested, seven people were taken away by EMS, and police fielded 23 calls for service. Flags were stripped from raised arms and torn apart.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott called it the single most dangerous event he's had to police in his years as a law enforcement officer.

In downtown Charleston vandals spray-painted messages on statues of John C. Calhoun, a staunch defender of slavery, in the days after the shooting. One was in Marion Square, the other at White Point Gardens.

The General Assembly also passed a resolution naming June 17 Mother Emanuel Day. In Charleston, the city renamed the area between Meeting and Concord streets Mother Emanuel Way. The sign hangs over Calhoun Street right outside the church.

It's there, under that sign, that the new year brought another first the Emanuel.

The largest AME church south of the Mason-Dixon welcomed its first female pastor. Rev. Dr. Betty Deas-Clark was tasked with leading a congregation still feeling the loss and pain.

Clark holds onto Psalm 23, her favorite passage.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

The words now take on a whole new meaning.

"There's a congregation of people who worship in the building where the tragedy took place. There's a congregation of people, in order to use the facility, have to walk through that very room. It's a tragedy that's on going, and yes, they live it every day," Clark said.

So does the reverend. She now sits at the desk where Pinckney sat, and conducts the church's business in the shadow of a gunman. It's why she finds hope in the fifth verse, a prophetic one: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

She's also grateful to be the one chosen to comfort and lead a congregation in great need.

"I feel some of them pulling on me, longing to hear something from me to make sense of their day. I feel those who came, I'm finally here. I'm in the church where the members once sat," Clark said.

Seven months after the shooting, Clark was approached and asked to lead Emanuel. She says it's not always easy, but it's not always difficult either. She said yes without hesitation and hasn't looked back.

"I knew this was a broken, hurting, wounded congregation. I knew that the love of God could flow through me to the congregation," she said.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Clark, who was born and raised in McClellanville. Being the first female pastor at Emanuel gives rise to a few jokes.

"(The church is) 198 years old. What took so long? They just got the memo," she said, laughing.

Humility won't let her admit that she was the right person, the right mother, at a time when Mother Emanuel lost so many of her sons and daughters.

The church also lost its mother in Ethel Lance.

Rev. Goff said during her funeral that she attended church every day of the week. It's what she did to keep busy after retiring in addition to caring for her five children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. But she embraced all of God's children.

"Whenever you saw my Aunt Ethel, she'd always greet you with a loving smile," said Sharlene Mack, Lance's niece. "She always hugged you and it was always, 'Hey sweetheart.' Before she left she would say I love you, and I'm just thankful I had her as an aunt."

Lance's unwavering faith ran in the family. Her cousin, Susie Jackson, had been a member of Emanuel for decades. The two women were at Bible study together that Wednesday evening.

They proudly sang God's praises together, and celebrated their many blessings from those old wooden pews.

"She was a God-fearing woman," said granddaughter Najee Washington, 23, who lived with Lance. "She was the heart of the family, and she still is. She is a very caring, giving and loving woman. She was beautiful inside and out."

Family says they believe God called on her to go on a mission that fateful Wednesday night, but they say they are comforted by the thought that when she took her last breath she was already home.

"She was giving. She loved people and she loved Mother Emanuel," said Willie Dell Washington.

Another woman who found home in the church was Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. She lived the word of God and had faith she would one day preach from the pulpit of her own church.

"She was very close to the Lord and yet she was that way from the beginning of life. She just fell right in line, the same as if the Lord had been appointing her each time every way she go," said Rev. Leroy Middleton, Doctor's father.

She began her spiritual journey in Hollywood, where at a young age she told her mother, Francis Middleton, she wanted to preach. Her mother said the family just encouraged her to put in the work.

"She went and joined Mount Moriah Church, and that's where she was given the privilege to preach," Leroy Middleton said.

For any church that opened its doors to her, Doctor would make sure she delivered a message from God, just like her father and her uncle, Rev. Walter Raymond Middleton.

"It was natural; it was something that you could tell it was a gift and it was her calling. It was one of her callings," he said.

Preaching at Mount Moriah was one thing, but she wanted to be named pastor there. That path led Doctor to Pinckney.

"I called Rev. Pinckney and tell him that she was interested in coming over there to do a little study and she went, and he accepted her," Leroy Middleton said.

Like Myra Thompson, Doctor had accepted her license to preach that Wednesday afternoon.

At her funeral, dozens of people stood outside Emanuel in the rain singing "Amazing Grace." She was one of Emanuel's beloved singers.

"Oh she had a heavenly voice," said Nora Sneed, who went to church with Middleton-Doctor when she attended Mount Moriah Baptist Church before she began going to Mother Emanuel earlier this year.

While they can no longer talk with her, she can still speak to them through song.

"I try and talk about her and talk about the good things that she has done, and then I try to remember her as she was before so that's how I'm making it now," Doctor's mother said.

Her parents have found peace, much like her cousin.

"As Christians, we often say that God sometimes pick the ones that are ready. And I think the life she lived and the faith that she had in God, it was her time and he picked a good one," said Latrice Smalls, her cousin.

In the hours and days following the shooting, Charleston was often used in the same sentence as words like love, hope, and grace. A week after the shooting, those expressions of compassion and unity were captured in a lasting image - that came from above.

Hundreds of people joined hands in Marion Square, barely a block from Emanuel, to stand hand-in-hand in the shape of a heart.

Days earlier, there was another sign of unity in the square when Pastor Brandon Bowers organized an event that became a landmark for a church without walls.

"We are gathered here to make a statement that what the enemy intended for evil, God is using for good," he told the makeshift congregation on the Sunday following the shooting.

Bowers, who usually preaches from a pulpit in West Ashley, said being gathered inside a church away from Emanuel didn't feel right because he knew there were people wandering outside the church who were hurting and needed a place to belong.

It promoted Bowers to ask one question: where would Jesus be? He knew the answer.

In a matter of days, the pastor of Awaken Church brought together congregations from seven churches as a show of unity when so many hearts were broken and questioning how such a tragedy could happen.

"A lot of times people don't know where else to look. They don't know who else to ask, and it forces us to ask questions: Why would God allow this to happen? How can a loving God allow this to happen?" Bowers said. "We just believe church is where those questions get answered."

Bowers said he was compelled to do something for Emanuel after seeing several family members offer forgiveness to the accused shooter. As a husband and father of four, Bowers admits he doesn't know he could have been as strong in his faith to do the same.

But as a pastor he knew it was a moment everyone can learn from.

"Moments like this shape our faith," he said. "We believe that there's forgiveness. We believe there's hope. We believe that there's mercy and the families that were directly affected modeled that."

It's a moment that, according to Bowers, has become a movement of faith, forgiveness, and even friendship.

"I'm friends with pastors all over the city and a lot of the connections that happened back last June have become established and those relationships have developed," he said.

It's the bright beginning of a new chapter following the darkness of the one before for former mayor Riley.

"I will never forget the acts of goodness and charity and grace and love," he said. "And that's what helps with the sadness."

For survivors Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, this has been a year of emotional distress. They survived the unimaginable and, while there were problems and some hard feelings at times, learning more about the circumstances surrounding the shooting have tempered their attitudes.

It's also mobilized them to become more politically active.

"They don't want guns in the hands of people who will be reckless in their use of those weapons. We've just seen so much of that around the country. So they're working with victims of shootings and with people interested in refining gun laws," Savage said. "The knowledge the family members had that morning was the family of that guy had purchased that gun for him for his birthday."

Learning more about Roof means having more questions about his life before he entered Emanuel last June. And as the days wear on, they will only learn more about him.

Sheppard and Sanders had offered forgiveness previously. Savage wouldn't say whether that had changed over the last 12 months.

"I think they're very interested in knowing more about the environment in which he was living," he said.

Their attorney says the two women are still the same people.

"These were such intrinsically good people, those same principles of life they had before June 17 are carrying them through their daily activities today," Savage said.

"They pray for that fellow. It's a sincere prayer. That's the essence of who they are."

Savage says Sanders' granddaughter is doing well. She recently graduated from the sixth grade with top honors and is looking forward to starting a new school this fall.

They're the heroes, says Chief Mullen, the survivors, the family members every day trying to pick up the pieces after heartbreaking tragedy.

"They are in fact heroes to me because they survived that situation and they are now strong people, they advocate for forgiveness and love and faith and I don't know if I could do that in their situations," Mullen said.

"They are all heroes in my mind and I will hopefully will always be connected to them in some way because just being around them gives me strength and makes me feel again that the human spirit has such resiliency because to be in a place and go through that and be able to continue on and speak up and encourage other people to forgive and follow their faith and make sure love overcomes evil. That's pretty powerful stuff."

But those victims' stories, and the crippling grief for those left behind, are why Chief Mullen supports the death penalty for Roof.

"I think that if ever there is a situation where a person premeditatedly decided they were going to go and murder a number of people, and then actually sit down with them in a church during a Bible study, and then stand up and kill them, and tell the person that he left alive that he did it because of a hatred, then I think that that clearly is a case where the death penalty would be appropriate for," he said.

The summer had hardly cooled in 2015 when Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she would seek the death penalty for Roof. The federal decision would come much later.

Less than a month before the shooting anniversary, the Department of Justice announced it would also seek the death penalty for Roof.

Roof, who is 22 now, has spent an entire year in isolation at the Charleston County Detention Center, some 20 minutes from Emanuel. He rarely sees the outside of the jail complex, having waived his right to appear at hearings and bar meetings concerning his case.

The trials are still months off, with the U.S. government trying him first in November followed by his state murder trial in January.

Roof, through his attorneys in both courtrooms, has said he is willing to plead guilty if the threat of the death penalty is removed. So far, prosecutors have not accepted the offer.

Roof will have more time outside of the jail this fall as jury selection kicks off in his federal trial because he has asked to be present for that process.

That means for a week in late September, many members of the victims' families will sit in court behind him for hours at a time. It will likely be a test of faith and challenge their healing process.

For Kevin Singleton, Myra Thompson's son, the last year has been spent talking to people all over the world. He even met President Obama.

He says he's getting a lot of support from friends and strangers alike, and people are doing anything they can to help the victims' families. That response has been what helped him start the healing process.

And now, a year later, he's determined to live life like his mother.

"I'm using everything I was taught by my mom and what I was taught inside the church. So that's what helps me to move forward day by day to continue to heal and gather more passion in my body to be forgiving," he said.

It's still a daily struggle made easier by a new mission. Singleton created the nonprofit Passion to Forgive, something that will pursue his mother's many philanthropic passions.

He's focusing on the community.

Passion to Forgive used some of the money from the victims' family fund to award scholarships to Charleston kids because Thompson spent a lot of time with foster and disadvantaged children. So far, Passion to Forgive has handed out $5,000 in scholarships.

"We have a long list of programs we have lined up for the future. We want to continue to stay steady and consistent. We want it to go on as long as it can," he said.

Singleton says his mom's true legacy is not as a victim but as an outlet to see her passions live on in her son.

On the heels of the shooting anniversary, the group is also hosting a gun safety panel at the library in downtown Charleston on June 20. It will include a number of speakers from local law enforcement agencies.

Life a year later for Chris Singleton is, in many ways, like life the year before the shooting. He's playing summer baseball, as he always does. However, in the wake of the shooting he's opted to spend the summer of 2016 in Columbia, a short distance removed from Charleston on the anniversary of his mother's death.

He and his family declined interviews this year, opting to let his younger brother and sister adapt to their new lives and to let his game on the diamond speak for itself.

While the college freshman thrust into the national spotlight is a year older, he still seeks that return to the kid he was on the baseball field. But his school wants to make sure the Singleton name will last forever.

Charleston Southern is trying to finance a sports facility that will bear Sharonda Coleman-Singleton's name and her son's unforgettable words.

The 3,500-square-foot baseball facility will be called the Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Baseball Enrichment Center, and will feature a memorial plaza and a stadium courtyard.

"We've had tremendous support from the community, the RiverDogs stepped up, alumni and friends are pushing hard. I've tried to tell Chris, stress to alumni and community, the building is not only for Miss Sharonda-but for all the parents who do so much for college baseball players- and I can't imagine a better parent being remembered forever than Miss Sharonda," head baseball coach Stuart Lake said.

Currently, the project has raised more than half of the requisite $1.5 million needed to start construction.

There also will be a legacy left behind for Cynthia Hurd, the librarian. A library has been renamed in her honor and a nonprofit was launched to help kids read.

"We honor her through the establishment of the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation to increase literacy," said Malcolm Graham.

The Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation launched in May in two cities, Charleston and Charlotte and will continue Hurd's efforts as a librarian.

"Our objective is to get books in the hands of any pre-school age kids that need it so they can begin to be educated learn by reading at an early age," he said.

"We want to start it with money and we want to start it with books," said Melvin Graham, announcing he and his brothers were donating $5,000 and 315 books to start off a June donation drive.

Rev. Kylon Middle's hope on the first anniversary of the shooting is one of hope and reflection. He's thankful for a brotherhood some can only dream of, and carrying out a promise to stand by Pinckney's widow and their daughters.

It's a process of healing that will last a lifetime.

"There's not a moment I don't think of him," Middleton said. "I have just learned from this experience that when you dig deep within yourself you will find that whatever is in you, the strength, the faith, the belief, the trust, the unwavering commitment, those things will rise. I am all forgiving because I believe we all stand in the need of that."

Mayor Riley looks back and doesn't focus on the tragedy inside the church, but on the love that enveloped it after. He is certain the massacre was one of the city's saddest moments and most hateful and violent, too.

"And yet, the response to Charleston's saddest moment made it Charleston's finest moment. It's a very powerful thought and important remembrance of the legacy of this community's actions after the tragedy of Mother Emanuel," he said.

Prosecutors say Roof wanted to divide the community, but the opposite happened. Instead, just four days after the shooting the community stood united and a massive crowd that some estimate reached 20,000 strong formed a unity chain over the nearly three-mile Ravenel Bridge.

It was the idea of a Mount Pleasant mom.

It started with a small group, so small Dorsey Fairbairn was concerned the chain wouldn't make it across the bridge. The result was another act of unity and hope that stunned the world.

"I thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat if this quaint, charming place that I call home did something extraordinary and kind of made a statement?' Fairbairn said, recalling the initial inspiration for the unity march.

And Charleston delivered extraordinary, attracting people from around the country to pack the bridge. Leading the pack was Mount Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie and a member of the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the summit, there was a pause - a nine-minute pause - to remember those killed days earlier.

"I think the reason why it was so successful because it was so impulsive; it was just the way people wanted to respond. It was just so raw," Fairbairn said.

Now a year later, she looks back on the event as a surreal moment overloaded with emotion that brought so many to tears.

Ritchie, who was tasked with making sure everyone was safe during the march, wasn't immune from seeing the positive impact on everyone involved - including himself.

"I will never forget this event. It was a defining moment for me, no question," he said.

And that's why Fairbairn and Ritchie won't try to recreate that same raw, impulsive experience again for the anniversary.

"You know, I often get asked we were just asked recently about doing an annual event but there is no way you could ever recreate something as spontaneous and as real as that was," Ritchie said.

Fairbairn agrees.

"I just feel like what needed to happen, happened, just the way it was supposed to, you know. The event itself touched me and I will forever have that."

The world watched Charleston's tragedy and triumph. For those who live in the Holy City, it will be the event that marks their time here. That's why three local authors teamed up to give the world a better perspective on what it means to say "We are Charleston."

Three Lowcountry scholars with the gift of rhetoric partnered to tell the story of the Emanuel through the eyes of a poet, a reporter, and a historian.

"It was just devastating," said Dr. Bernard Powers, a history professor at the College of Charleston.

He knows the African experience in Charleston more than most. He's spent much of his life studying that history.

"A substantial number of all Africans that were imported into South Carolina would have come in right through Gadsden's Wharf, right in this area," he said one afternoon in May while overlooking Charleston's harbor.

Where the sin of slavery was brought ashore, the roots of racism still run deep.

And the story of Emanuel is deeply intertwined in Charleston's story. Mother Emanuel grew out of need, and was often a target because it served as a symbol of black freedom.

"What we try to do in the course of the book is talk about the way in which that congregation met tragedy one after another head on and managed to grow in surprising and important ways," Powers said.

Where one might expect animus from the nearly 200-year-old congregation, the members of Emanuel showed forgiveness time and again.

What seemed surprising to the world after June 17 was a character ingrained in the congregation for generations.

"It's that aspect of forgiveness as you know that probably made this story much more widely known because it's unbelievable that these people, these families after what had happened would have had the ability to offer forgiveness," he said.

Powers, along with Marjory Wentworth and Herb Frasier, hope that people read their book "We Are Charleston" and think about ways to embody that same forgiving spirit.

Powers says it's not so much what happened but why, and what the country can learn from the loss of life.

"The story doesn't end there, there's yet more to be done in Charleston and in South Carolina to bring about equity and diversity that we need in this society," he said.

The community has been forever changed - in Biblical terms, it's been reborn.

As the Lowcountry gathers to celebrate the legacy of the Emanuel Nine, it's fitting to invoke a Statehouse speech by Rev. Pinckney who said there is a great opportunity to give us new eyes for seeing.

It's a fresh perspective on a day of reflection in a city that's shown amazing grace.


Reporting: Victoria Hansen, Dean Stephens, Jon Bruce, Tessa Spencer-Adams, Bill Burr, Stacy Jacobson, Ashley Blackstone, Scott Eisberg, Rob Mallia, Lindsey Maloney, Sonya Stevens, Calista Rice, Brodie Hart, Caroline Balchunas, and Lara Rolo.

Photography and editing: Dave MacQueen, Dan Michener, Tony Tassarotti, Max Harrison, Johnie Freiwald, and Jason Tighe.

Produced by Alex Caban.

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