Charleston comes together to honor shooting victims -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Charleston comes together to honor shooting victims

CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) - The Charleston church shooting tragedy has taken the country by storm, but those close to the nine victims want to make sure mourners focus on love and healing, and not the suspect.

Following the shooting deaths of nine people at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, there's debate heating up as to whether the criminal act should be considered a hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism. But that debate doesn't matter for those trying to heal.

Charleston, considered the Holy City, is taking it one step at a time. The city has been flooded with prayer; one vigil after another. Mourners honor the nine victims, lifting up their families and thanking the leaders and law enforcement officials who helped capture the suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

Some Charlestonian's said they will pray for Roof, because he has a soul, too.  But the resounding message coming from the city is 'the evil did not break us, it made us stronger'. 

"It's an amazing thing," local pastor Aaron Mobley said. "How tragedy can be turned into a point of praise, relationship, love. And I believe that many people will find openness in their hearts. Maybe in ways that they were not open to embrace one another with regards to race."

The City of Charleston is hosting a prayer vigil Friday night in honor of the nine victims at 5 p.m. at the College of Charleston TD Arena. Officials expect a huge turnout so space will be limited. Bags will be searched, and free parking will be available at a nearby parking garage.

"It just focused our attention more on a relationship with God, one-ness, unity, love," Mobley said of the effects the shooting has had on the community. "Those things that do bind us together beyond race or religion or creed and denominations. Those things. And those bring us together in times like this."

There will also be a vigil scheduled in Florence Friday at noon at the Mount Zion AME Church. 

Charleston's mayor announced the city has created a memorial fund to help the families of the nine victims called the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. A website is making tee-shirts with the phrase "Charleston Strong" on the front to raise money for victims' families. You can find a link to tee-shirt sales here.

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