On Wednesday, Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and joined a bible study group that was already in progress. Roof sat with the group for nearly an hour before pulling out a gun and opening fire on them. Nine people died in Emanuel that night. In the wake of their deaths, the local community has begun to share their memories of them.
Clementa Pinckney, one of Emanuel’s pastors, dedicated his life to the pursuit of his faith. He first began preaching at the age of 13 and became a full-fledged pastor by the time he was 18. He met his future wife, Jennifer Benjamin, while he was still an undergraduate at Allen University studying business administration.
Pinckney became a Princeton University Woodrow Wilson fellow in his junior year of college, a distinction that furthered his journey through higher education. After earning his Master’s in public administration from the University South Carolina, he went on to study and complete a Masters of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
At 23, Pinckney became one of the youngest people to be elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. Four years later, in 2000, he was elected to the State Senate—a position that he held onto until the day he died. As a public official, Pinckney was an open and vocal advocate for police reform as well as the use of body-mounted cameras to combat police brutality.
He is survived by his wife and his two daughters Eliana and Malana.
Cynthia Hurd found her life’s passion in helping people find answers to their questions. As the library manager of the Andrews Regional Library, Hurd spent her days educating young minds and passing on the tradition of physically researching information found in books. She believed that dedicating her life to serving others was her true calling. When she wasn’t working at the library or staying active within the church, she served as a board member of Charleston’s Housing Authority.
“She also was a person of very strong conviction and strong will,” Housing Authority director Don Cameron told the Post and Courier. “You always knew where she stood. She was not the kind of person where you had to figure it out.”
Two weeks ago, Susie Jackson traveled from Charleston to visit her grandchildren in Cleveland and she planned on attending her annual family reunion later this summer. She was known for her vibrant spirit that belied her age and her beautiful voice that she added to the church’s choir. Jackson was also an active participant in the local chapter of the South Carolina Order of the Eastern Star, a faith-based fraternity committed to community outreach and education.
Ethel Lance, Manuel’s custodian, loved introducing her loved ones to fine art. She worked as a custodian for the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium for more than three decades before retiring in 2002. Even when she wasn’t on duty, she was drawn to the venue for its vibrant performances. Lance raised her five children in the West Ashley neighborhood of Charleston.
The Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor was a graduate of Columbia College and Southern Wesleyan University, where she earned her Master’s in management. Middleton-Doctor felt passionately about giving back to those that helped her. She contributed her time and energy back to SWU as an admissions coordinator for the school’s learning center.
Before he sacrificed himself in an attempt to protect his aunt Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders dreamt of opening up his own barbershop. Sanders’ entrepreneurial spirit is what pushed him to pursue his business degree from Allen University. The recent graduate had recently moved back in with his parents in an effort to save money as he prepared for graduate school.
"Wanza was one-of-a-kind person with the biggest smile you'd ever see," Sanders’s friend Torrence Shaw told People. "If you were down and out, he'd always find a way to brighten your day."
Like so many other Charleston residents, Reverend Daniel Simmons was a well-respected alumni of Allen University. His legacy as a brother of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and his dedication to the church forever linked him to his community. Though he was a retired reverend, he maintained his connection to his faith through Bible study and regularly attending Sunday services.
Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a mother, a minister, a teacher, and a coach at nearby Goose Creek High School. As an undergraduate at South Carolina State University, Coleman-Singleton helped carry her school’s track and field team to a conference championship. She earned her degree in speech pathology and audiology in 1991 before heading to Montclair State in New Jersey to complete her Master’s. She brought the same passion that drove her to run as a young woman to her job as a high school athletics and as a fierce champion for her students off the field.
She is survived by her three children.
Myra Thompson was teaching and leading this past Wednesday’s bible study session as she did every week. The 59-year-old woman was a widely respected member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and well known for her kindness and generosity.
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