CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Melvin Graham described his sister Cynthia as someone who was on your side.
“If she was your friend, you had a friend,” said Graham.
Cynthia is one of the nine Mother Emanuel angels.
“She would do whatever she had to do to help you,” Graham said. “She would stick and stay with you and when everyone else would walk away, Cynthia would be there. After her death, that became even more apparent.”
Her family grew up right around the corner from the church.
“Emanuel is home to us. I can’t think of any other way to put it,” Graham said. “It’s home. It’s where my spiritual roots began. It’s where her spiritual roots began.”
As Cynthia got older, her love for learning took her to college in Atlanta. But her mother becoming ill brought her back to the Holy City.
“Cynthia said, ‘I’ll come home and I’ll take care of mom.’ And so she left Atlanta and came back home,” Graham said.
That’s when she planted her roots and became a librarian.
“Cynthia was a book nerd. She loved to read and that’s the one thing you’ll find consistent with everyone you talk to,” said Graham.
He said it was through her job at the library that she was able to find a way to help people.
“Children would say, ‘oh yeah I would go to the library and Ms. Hurd would have books set aside for us to read,” Melvin said. “Ms. Hurd would help us with our homework, or Ms. Hurd would help us in any way she could.”
But it was her love for literature that keeps her legacy alive today, through her foundation.
“We did what she loved… Books and reading. Helping children and adults, as the ‘Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation for Reading and Civic Engagement,’ Graham said. “We wanted to reach out to young children, to young adults… Teach them the love of reading.”
But he says it was more than just that.
“We also want to get involved in the community in different ways to try to inspire people to do things. To be civically active,” Graham said. “So that’s the basis of the foundation.”
Cynthia’s beauty is kept alive today in the Butterfly Book Nook Garden on the peninsula. It’s where Graham said he’d find Cynthia if she were with us today, cooped up with her nose in a book.
“This is Cynthia reincarnated in flowers. She loved flowers,” Graham said. “This garden is an example of the inspiration Cynthia had. “
He said it’s where he finds peace in it all.
“During the summer when the flowers are in bloom you have butterflies,” said Graham.
If she were still here today, Graham said her message to the community would be to come together to lend a hand.
“Do what needs to be done. Come together. Help one another. When I help you, you help me. We help each other. We all strive together.”
The same way it did for his family five years ago.
“I still marvel and I still am so proud of this community as to how they pulled together. How they put their arms of love around my family and how they stuck with us from year one to year five,” Graham said. “Even now, things are still being done in Cynthia’s name and in her memory and I’m just so happy for that.”
And as the community mourns the loss of the Mother Emanuel angels, Melvin said he will use the anniversary of his sister’s passing to reflect on the life long love and light his sister leaves behind.