Charleston shows solidarity as it prepares to bury victims

Published 9:45 am Monday, June 22, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Bells tolled across the city, thousands linked up on a towering bridge and a historic sanctuary reopened in displays of unity as Charleston heals from a church massacre and gets set for a week of victims’ funerals.

Area residents repeated messages of solidarity, love and even defiance of evil at the remembrances, hopeful their expressions would drown out the hate embodied in the slayings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Authorities say a white gunman was welcomed into a Bible study last week at the historic black church before making racially offensive remarks and shooting nine people to death.

“Because the doors of Mother Emanuel are open on this Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth,” said the Rev. Norvel Goff, who led the first Sunday service since the killings at the church known as “Mother Emanuel” because it is one of the oldest black congregations in the South.

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During the service, many stood — some holding small children — to shout their praises or raise their hands toward the church’s vaulted ceiling. For added security, police officers stood watch over worshippers.

As Emanuel’s congregation sang a gospel hymn, church bells rang throughout the “Holy City” — nicknamed because of the numerous churches here.