CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On the evening of July 17th, 2015, Charleston experienced one of its worst tragedies. Convicted shooter Dylann Roof walked into a place of peace and prayer and opened fire, killing nine African American churchgoers at Mother Emanuel AME.
Roof left behind three people who he wanted to live. One being Polly Sheppard, aka Ms. Polly, so she could in his words “tell the story”.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson – these are the Emanuel Nine.
Four years later, their story premiered in Lowcountry theaters. As family members continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones, local radio personality, Lady Tee of Heaven 101.1 said “This is a night of remembrance, reflection and restoration, today we come together to help each other heal.”
“I’m sorry baby your momma is gone” – Those were the words that the coroner told Nadine Collier; daughter of Ethel Lance in the documentary. At that moment, Nadine said she felt “everything she had loved was gone.”
It was at that moment tears filled the eyes of those viewing the documentary. They watched Nadine Collier mourn her mother’s death right in front of their eyes.
As the documentary continued, Joe Riley, who was the mayor of Charleston at the time, said how he received a call from the police chief around 9:00 p.m. that night and was told he needed to get to Emanuel A.M.E immediately.
On arrival, he said the scene was chaotic and hectic. He then asked the police chief “where is Reverend Pinckney” and recalled being told that Rev. Pinkney had been killed earlier that night along with eight others.
By 11:15 p.m. that evening, Mayor Joe Riley said all they knew was that people were dead in the church and that there was a shooter who at the time was unknown.
As the documentary continues, you hear the tales of the other family members who had lost loved ones that horrific night.
Roof was captured in North Carolina 14 hours after the shooting. He was later brought to his plea hearing. With families were still mourning, they saw Roof for the first time on a monitor that was projected in front of them.
Surprisingly to everyone, the judge that day allowed them to speak. The first of the family members to speak was Nadine Collier. Looking Roof in his eyes, she shocked the room when she spoke the words: “I forgive you.” Other mourners pleaded to Roof that he should repent.
The documentary was a beautiful display of forgiveness. Even in times of hurt and pain, and while Roof awaits execution at Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana, mourners like Ms. Polly still forgive Roof in hopes that maybe one day God can heal his heart.