When nine Mother Emanuel AME church members were gunned down inside of their Bible study, much of the Charleston community and Lowcountry were grief-stricken. The pastor who led the Bible study that night was Reverend Clementa Pinckney; he was also the state senator from Jasper County. A year after the shooting, NEWS 3 caught up with those who knew him.
“The loss of our dear beloved senator had an impact,” Judge Joseph Kline said.
Kline was appointed judge by Pinckney. The two were close friends. They had just met to go over Pinckney’s legislative goals for 2016 two weeks before Pinckney was shot and killed, along with eight others, inside of Emanuel AME on June 17, 2015.
That shooting is considered a hate crime.
“Nationwide, it had an impact,” Kline said. “So, we hold that dear that he gave in a sense, himself, so that others could understand love in a period where hatred was rampant.”
Nearly a year later in Beaufort, a memorial service was held at Grace Chapel AME to remember those nine people. In the emotional service, former representative Bakari Sellers spoke. Candles were light. Hymns were sung. A congregation lifted up prayer.
The presiding elder of the Beaufort AME church district says a notable change in the year since tragedy struck is the compassion people displayed for one another in putting away differences, to come together for healing. However, Elder Joe Darby says there’s still work to be done.
“I think too, that those who make laws in particular need to look at how laws affect equity and how they can take new attitudes to public policy. If we can do that, I’d say there’s been some standard change but if not, I think we may find that we’re just in an extended ‘kumbaya’ moment,” Darby said.
For some, it’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year. It’s still hard to swallow for Reverend James Moore. Moore helped Pinckney become elected as state representative as a young man.
“I think I’ve gone probably a dozen times in the last year, gone across in purpose to take his name and number out of my phone. I’ve just not been able to do it,” Moore said.
“There are some people who just have a hold on you like that,” he said.
Moore says Pinckney would not be happy to see divisiveness among people, so he hopes the community can continue to come together in love despite differences.
“The mass shooting in Charleston- and what has just happened in Orlando- as bad as it is, and it might not get better…we have to reach out and we have to embrace and we still have to love,” Moore said.
A memorial in Charleston is set for Friday at 10 a.m. at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena.