9 years since the mass murder at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church | News

As the ninth anniversary of the Emanuel AME Church shooting continues, parishioners are honoring the nine victims and five survivors while looking to the future to ensure their stories are not forgotten.

On the evening of June 17, 2015, an avowed white supremacist attended a Bible study at the historic Calhoun Street Church. He opened fire in the fellowship hall, murdering a group of black congregants.

Two days later, family members appeared at the killer's bail hearing. Several stood to speak as a judge called out the names of their loved ones. Some told the shooter they had forgiven him.

Her words echoed around the world, transforming an act of pure evil into a story of grace, resilience and strength.

The families' ability to forgive is a challenging and remarkable part of the tragedy, said the Rev. Eric SC Manning, who became Emanuel's pastor in 2016. Forgiveness is empowering. And while it doesn't forgive every wrongdoing, it allows people to let go of hatred and hostility, he said.

Manning, co-chair of the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation, hopes this message inspires others to be better members of the community. He wants to ensure that lessons from the massacre – and its aftermath – lead to ongoing, sustainable conversations.

At the heart of this work will be a national memorial to honor the victims and survivors. The project, located on either side of the church, is scheduled to open next June, around the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

Emanuel Monument (copy) (copy) (copy)

This illustration shows the planned Emanuel Nine Memorial Courtyard as seen from Calhoun Street, directly west of the church.

In the main courtyard, two white community benches surround a fountain engraved with the names of the victims: Cynthia Graham Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Clementa Pinckney. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel Simmons Sr. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson.

Construction workers are currently pouring foundations for the large marble benches, said project manager Korey Smith. The actual installation will be a lengthy, laborious process.

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Each piece will be shipped from a Wisconsin manufacturer. A crane will then push the bricks together, one piece at a time. The result is an interlocking structure with pieces supported on either side.

New York-based architect Michael Arad chose this design because it was an apt analogy to what a community bank and a community should be, he said: “Strength comes from the parts working together.”

Longtime Emanuel member Blondelle Gadsden lost her sister Myra in the shooting. She heads the Emanuel Nine Commemoration Committee, which has created a calendar of events through June 23.

Gadsden hopes that community members who participate in this year's programming will be encouraged to come back in 2025 when the memorial opens.

Construction of the main courtyard is on schedule, Smith said, but the foundation still needs to raise more money – at least $6 million – to create a survivor garden, improve the parking lot and build an endowment.

Some of the funds will also be used for educational activities. Manning is responsible for this project and believes it is crucial that the monument does not just become a place of admiration.

The year-round programs focus on combating hatred and racism, promoting reconciliation, encouraging forgiveness and empowering others to build strong communities.

The foundation is putting together an initial group to take surveys to uncover potential biases, Manning said. He sees these surveys as a starting point for conversations about blind spots and how we can better understand our neighbors.

The opening of the memorial is getting closer and both the foundation and Emanuel are preparing for the long journey, Manning said.

Comment: This is a teaching moment about Emanuel AME Church

Anyone interested in participating in the memorial services can find more information at or contact committee leader Blondelle Gadsden at 843-303-8740.