CHARLESTON, South Carolina – People prayed, dropped colorful flowers and wrote inspirational notes 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.
Less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) away, the shooting suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, sat in a jail cell, facing nine counts of murder and a weapons charge.
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.
"When I was a child, we still had Jim Crow segregation and I'm so thankful that it's so hard for my children to believe that this area was so segregated," said Lynda Scharborough, a white woman who brought her 5-year-old grandson to the vigil.
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 Friday accused Roof of shooting all nine multiple times, and making a "racially inflammatory statement" as he stood over an unidentified survivor.
Roof's public defender released a statement from his family offering prayers and sympathy for the victims, and expressing "shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night."
"We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims' families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering," the statement said.
Roof had complained while getting drunk on vodka recently that "blacks were taking over the world" and that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race," according to Joey Meek, who tipped off the FBI when he saw his friend on surveillance images.
Roof also told him he used birthday money from his parents to buy a .45 Glock pistol before the attack, Meek said. The affidavit said Roof's father and uncle also called authorities after seeing surveillance photos, and that the father said Roof owned a .45-caliber gun.
Contributors include Emily Masters, Russ Bynum, Alex Sanz, Meg Kinnard, David Goldman and Jacob Jordan in Charleston, South Carolina; Mitch Weiss in Columbia, South Carolina; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; and Eric Tucker in Washington.