Hate Crime

Creator of 9/11 memorial to honor Charleston church shooting victims

The designer of the 9/11 Memorial in New York has been chosen to create a second memorial dedicated to the nine worshipers killed by a white supremacist in a South Carolina church.

The Emanuel AME church in Charleston announced on Saturday – the second anniversary of the massacre – that famed architect Michael Arad would design the memorial.

“If we are able to shine a light on the beauty, resiliency, and love that was shown by members of this congregation and the community of Charleston,” said the Rev. Eric Manning, the church’s current pastor, “we will succeed in showing the best of humankind in the wake of the worst.”

The shooter, Dylann Roof, was sentenced to death in January. A federal jury in Indiana found him guilty of hate crimes. Roof fired 77 bullets during the final prayer of a Wednesday night bible study on June 17, 2015.

The somber anniversary commemoration on Saturday in Charleston featured a “Hate Won’t Win Unity Walk” and a crowd rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

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Last year, family and friends dedicated 15 trees on Emanuel AME’s front lawn – one for each of the dead, the five people inside the church who survived the slaughter, and one for the church’s congregation. This year, plaques were placed under each tree.

The church is still making changes and adjusting to life after the massacre. The weekly bible study was moved from the church fellowship hall where the shooting occurred to spare members from reliving the horror every week. The room still has unpatched bullet holes, according to the Post and Courier of Charleston.

Some members want to redesign the hall to remove any reminders of the massacre. Others, including the pastor, want it restored to look the same. No decision has been made yet.

Before the shooting occurred, Emanuel AME would welcome and individually recognize each visitor between hymns and the sermon. Since the shooting, there have been so many new visitors that recognizing each new member took up too much time and overshadowed the service, Manning said.

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So now visitors are welcome as a group, with a brief word before the start of the service. Members greet the pastor in return with a short song: “Emanuel, God is with us. Emanuel, in Him do we trust. We welcome you to this holy place. We welcome you to Emanuel.”

“I did not want worship service to continue to be a spectator sport,” Manning told the newspaper. “Some people may not agree with me, and I understand that. But my job is to protect worship.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.