President, thousands more join in celebration of Sen. Pinckney's - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

President, thousands more join in celebration of Sen. Pinckney's life

Funeral of Senator Clementa Pinckney (Source: WMBF News) Funeral of Senator Clementa Pinckney (Source: WMBF News)

CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) - There was as much, if not more, cheering, singing and reminiscing at Senator Clementa Pinckney's funeral as there was crying and mourning.

Thousands of people piled into the TD Arena in Charleston to celebrate Pinckney's life. 

"He loved helping people," Sen. Gerald Malloy said. "It didn't matter who you were or where you came from, he extended a helping hand and open heart to all walks of life. That's just the kind of man he was."

Governor Nikki Haley, Hillary Clinton, Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton as well as members of Congress and the South Carolina General Assembly attended.

Before the funeral even started, the choir was singing and people in the crowd were standing up to join in. That energy and passion continued throughout the five-hour ceremony with the audience playing an integral role, interacting with the speakers and each other.

One of the first speakers, AME Senior Bishop John Richard Bryant told the crowd this was not the TD Arena Friday, but instead a sanctuary for worship.

Speakers talked about how well Senator Pinckney balanced his commitments to the church and to the state. 

Close friends and family members spent time telling the audience funny stories of Sen. Pinckney and talking about how much he will be missed.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived more than halfway through the ceremony for the president to deliver the eulogy.

He started with an overview of Pinckney's life and his accomplishments as a politician and also a pastor.

The president said the nation is grieving after the shooting, but it cuts that much deeper that it happened in a church. He went into the long history of Emanuel AME Church and how it has continued to rise out of the ashes like a Phoenix.

The president brought up the confederate flag, racial oppression and gun violence as well.

He said the country needs to face those problems and make changes because that's what Senator Pinckney stood for throughout his life.

"Regardless of the color of their skin, or the station into which they were born and to do what's necessary to make opportunity real for every American, by doing that, we express God's grace," President Obama said.

At the end of the the eulogy, President Obama started singing "Amazing Grace." The crowd joined in for the song. 

"May God continue to shed his grace on the United States of America," the president said.

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