Community gathers in solidarity

Members of the community gather at the Peace Pole outside of the Galloway Memorial Episcopal Church on Thursday for a prayer vigil remembering the lives lost in Charleston, South Carolina.

Anne Gulley and the Rev. W. Gaye Brown participate in the Thursday night prayer vigil.

Event organizer Jane Motsinger shares words and prayers for the people of Charleston during the vigil at the Peace Pole.

Following the horrific acts that transpired during a Wednesday evening Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, members of the Elkin community decided to come together and hold a prayer vigil to honor those who lost their lives and show solidarity with brokenhearted.

The tragedy began when Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white male from Lexington, S.C., allegedly shot and killed nine worshipers during a Bible study at Emmanual AME. According to reports, Roof attended the study before firing on and killing all but two of those gathered inside.

Following an intensive manhunt, the gunman was arrested in Shelby, just after 11 a.m. Thursday.

Event organizer Jane Motsinger called the vigil after the events occurred, to give the community an outlet for their sorrow. “It felt like a good thing to do, to respond to something horrific and tragic,” said Motsinger. “We want to remember the nine folks in Charleston that lost their lives and also pray for the troubled young man.”

As the crowd of 15 or so participants filed in, the bells from the Galloway Memorial Episcopal Church on Main Street signified the 7 o’clock hour and the vigil began. The crowd lit candles and gathered in a circle around the pole adorned with writing in several languages. “I pray that we can make our nation safe for everyone,” prayed one attendee during the nearly 30 minutes of silence and prayer.

“I think of the church’s name: Emmanuel AME. Emmanuel, which means God with us,” said Motsinger. “He is with us, especially in times like this.”

Others in the crowd remembered not only the victims and families of those involved in this tragedy, but also the other tragedies that have plagued our nation in recent years. “I pray for all the survivors who have to relive this tragedy every time it happens, from Sandy Hook to Little Rock, Denver…,” said Elkin Presbyterian Pastor Stuart Taylor.

Wax continued to drip from the candles on the hot summer evening, symbolizing the multitude of tears shed each time a scourge of evil strikes the nation. Members of the circle chose to close the vigil by uniting together in a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer before extinguishing their candles.

Founded in 1816, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, or “Mother Emanuel” as it is known, has long been a safe haven and place of worship for Charleston’s African-American community.

Throughout its history, the church has been burned to the ground and destroyed by an earthquake — each time to be rebuilt by its members who see it as a sanctuary and a place of peace.

That peace was shattered when a gunman opened fire and killed nine people, including Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney. Authorities have said it was a racially motivated hate crime.

Security cameras show Roof entering the church just after 8 p.m. July 17. An hour later, the first 911 calls were received. By then, eight people had been shot and killed. The ninth would be pronounced dead shortly afterwards at an area hospital.

Pinckney, who in addition to serving since 2001 as a member of the S.C. Senate from the 45th District, was also the pastor of the church. He was 41.

Also killed were the Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Dr. Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson.

Civitas Media reporters from South Carolina contributed to this article.

Karen Holbrook may be reached at 336-258-4059 or on Twitter @KarenHolbrook00.

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