Stand strong, Charleston

Published 7:01 pm Friday, June 19, 2015

The congregation at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, welcomed a 21-year-old kid with open arms Wednesday evening.

He asked to sit next to the pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, during a Bible study, and that’s where he quietly sat for almost an hour. Then, without warning, the young, white male stood up, pulled a gun out and began firing.

He killed six women and three men, all black. We don’t know what was going on in his head, but police have said the act was racially motivated. According to some reports, he told police he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” but he had to “go through with his mission.

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A library manager, a speech therapist, a former county administrator and two ministers were among those lost in the carnage. They were mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and all children of Christ.

The gunman was charged with nine counts of murder and one count of criminal possession of a firearm. Friday, during a bond hearing for the accused, the family and friends of those who were murdered forgave the killer. Though they had lost loved ones they will never see again on this earth, they gave him their blessings.

Forgiveness is admirable in a situation like this, but acceptance is not. We should not accept such violence, such hatred in America today. When President Barack Obama addressed the country Thursday he said, “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.”

This act of terrorism has made many afraid and many more angry.

At a time when racial tensions are already high, we need to have more conversations. They’ll be difficult; they’ll make many uncomfortable or angry, but they are necessary, as is showing love toward one another, praying for each other and praying for Charleston and the families of the murdered.