Friday marked the one year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. As we know, Dylann Roof walked into the church during a nighttime Bible Study and an hour later he allegedly opened fire and shot and killed nine parishioners in the church’s basement. According to the survivors, Roof told them, he wanted to start a race war.
Despite it being 12 months later, the Charleston community and the nation are still reeling from this painful reminder of hate.
The White House released a statement on Friday reminding Americans to “never forget.”
“As a nation, we cried for their suffering, honored their lives, and as President Obama noted, challenged ourselves, even in the midst of our sadness, “To see where we’ve been blind.” We came together to make clear how the Confederate flag has been a “reminder of systematic oppression and racial subjugation.” We were reminded of how gun violence inflicts a “unique mayhem” on our nation. The tragedy spotlighted how past injustices continue to shape our present actions. And the encouraging call of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to take down the Confederate flag from the state’s capitol was part of an incredible moment of national unity,” wrote Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States.
But Jarrett also stressed that given the recent mass shooting at a LGBT club in Orlando that killed 49, we have a much more work to do in preventing this senseless violence.
“We cannot turn away from the fact that the worst mass shooting in our history took place just five days ago or that approximately 30,000 lives each year are cut short by gun violence in this country, and that countless more lives are forever changed through injuries or the loss of a loved one,” she said.
Jarrett added, “The vast majority of Americans and the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. They too feel the fierce urgency of now — understanding that it is not the time to give up the fight to end senseless gun violence.”
The first memorial took place at a service at the TD Arena in downtown Charleston where the Rev. Dr. Juenarrl Keith led the invocation and even asked God to have mercy on the soul of accused shooter Dylann Roof, CNN noted. At that event, there was also a call to action about the rising gun violence epidemic that plagues our nation.
“Words alone, no matter how sincere or well intended, cannot be substituted for sustained and meaningful action,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said at the event. “Can’t we at least remove the availability of assault weapons from those who have broken the law? Those who have mental issues? Can’t we at least complete reasonable background checks?”
But as the New York Times noted, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican politicians didn’t mention gun control at the event when asked to speak.
“I don’t have anything political to say,” Haley stressed. However, she did praise the resilience of the three people wounded by Roof and the families of the slain, CNN noted. “For them, it feels like it does to me. I feel like this just happened yesterday,” she said.
There will be numerous events happening throughout the state to honor those who were lost, Mic noted:
- Friday, June 17, 7 p.m. EST — “After Charleston: The Sacred Space”: a worship, prayer and reflection service at Mother Emanuel AME Church, 110 Calhoun Street, Charleston.
- Saturday, June 18, 7:30 a.m. EST — Prayer Breakfast: an event hosted by state lawmakers at Francis Marion Hotel, 387 King Street, Charleston. Reservation details can be found here.
- Saturday, June 18, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST — Shoe giveaway: Samaritan’s Feet is giving away free socks and tennis shoes to school-aged children, at Buist Academy, 103 Calhoun Street, Charleston. Registration is required.
- Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST — “A Walk of Unity and Thanksgiving”: a walk from Marion Square to Gaillard Center Lawn at the Gaillard Center, 95 Calhoun Street, Charleston. Registration info can be found here.
- Saturday, June 18, 2-7 p.m. EST — “Mother Emanuel Quilt Exhibition”: This event will be held at 85 Calhoun Street, Charleston.
- Sunday, June 19 at 9:30 a.m. EST — Sunday worship service: Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, pastor ofMother Emanuel AME Church, will lead a worship service at the church.
Roof awaits his federal trial where he is facing the death penalty.