Mourners began arriving at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning to remember pastor Clementa Pinckney, a former senator and one of nine victims of the deadly shooting at at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.
By midday, some 6,000 people had gathered outside the TD Arena at the College of Charleston to pay their respects and hear President Obama deliver the eulogy. Waiting for the president’s arrival, the crowd joined together in song, led by the “Mother Emanuel” choir.
Funerals for the nine victims began Thursday and will continue almost daily for the next week. First lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and his wife Jill were in attendance at today’s service along with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), Charleston Mayor Joe Riley (D), Rep. Mark Sanford (R) of South Carolina, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Mr. Obama spoke of Rev. Pinckney’s devotion to his country, his church, and his community. He talked of how as a senator, he held fast to what he though was right, even when his views were unpopular.
“He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words,” Obama said. “Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently.”
Reciting the names of each of the eight additional victims, the president extended words of comfort to the families of the fallen. He defiantly declared that the church, the community, and the nation cannot be robbed of grace by a misguided shooter.
That grace was immediately apparent in the wake of the shootings when some of the family members of the victims told the press that they were ready to forgive the shooter.
Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white male, has been charged with nine counts of murder in relation to the shootings. The Justice Department is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. The sole survivor reported that Mr. Roof had told the victims that he had attended the Bible study at the church that night with intent to shoot black people. Since, investigators have released a manifesto espousing white supremacist values allegedly written by Roof.
During Mr. Roof’s arraignment on June 19, the Monitor reported that the Chief Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr., made a point of mentioning the alleged shooter’s family.
"We have victims, nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side,” the judge said. “There are victims on this young man's side of the family. Nobody would have ever thrown them into the whirlwind of events that they have been thrown into. We must find it in our heart, at some point in time, not only to help those that are victims but to also help his family as well."