Plans for a memorial dedicated to the nine people killed during a Bible study – and the Charleston, S.C., church that survived the hate crime – were unveiled Sunday.
Located on the grounds of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the detailed memorial is a result of conversations between architects and grieving family members to honor the nine worshipers shot and killed in June 2015.
Designed by Michael Arad, who also was behind the 9/11 memorial, the Charleston tribute is set to include a courtyard with a marble fountain featuring carvings of names of the “Emanuel Nine.” The fountain will be flanked by two curved “fellowship benches” facing each other “with high backs that arc up and around like sheltering wings,” according to a news release.
With the fountain, water will come from a cross-shaped source, “gently spilling over the names of the nine,” the plans stated.
Between the benches: a simple alter where people can pray or reflect.
The nine killed during the Bible study were: Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., and Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson.
The memorial also includes plans for a “survivors’ garden” which would be “dedicated to life and resiliency.” This garden is set to include five trees and six benches to honor the five people at the Bible study who survived the shooting. That sixth bench represents the church – also a survivor of the shooting.
“Ultimately, it will inspire people and communities everywhere to rise above racism and overcome hate with love.”
“The inspiration for this memorial draws on Mother Emanuel AME Church as a historic place and as a congregation,” Arad, who was announced as the architect in June 2017, said in a statement. “Throughout its 200-year history, it has endured slavery, discrimination and racism. When worship and assembly were banned, the church resisted and provided a place of fellowship and sanctuary. The Emanuel Nine tragedy marks another dark moment for the church, though faith helped to heal and bring light into the darkness.”
Discussions about a permanent tribute to the victims began in the months after the shooting, businessman John Darby, who helped set up a memorial fund for the church, told The Associated Press. Darby estimated it could take more than $15 million for construction and an endowment to maintain the memorial.
He also said the design process was emotional and intertwined with grief.
“This memorial will honor the Emanuel Nine and celebrate the grace in forgiveness from the victims’ families, spirit of resiliency shown by the survivors, church members, the community of Charleston and the world by coming together as one,” Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, the church's pastor, said in a statement. “Ultimately, it will inspire people and communities everywhere to rise above racism and overcome hate with love.”
Dylann Roof, who said he intended to kill the people at the historic church to stoke racial tensions, has been sentenced to death for the shooting.
A fundraising site for the Emanuel Nine memorial has been created.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.