Family and friends of the Charleston 9 were welcomed to Greenville’s Fluor Field with open arms Friday. The lives of their loved ones were honored in a special concert promoting unity and healing on a day that affects the lives of all Americans.
The eyes of the nation watched this summer as family of the Charleston 9 forgave their killer. It was a powerful move and, Friday, 7 On Your Side talked to them for the first time about their ability to show grace and have the state embrace them.
First, the sweet voices of Senator Clementa Pinkney’s young daughters rang out through an encouraging crowd. Though nervous, the simple words of “Jesus Loves Me” were clear as the evening sky over Fluor Field.
The girls were joined by nearly 30 other friends and family members of the Charleston 9. Tears were shed, but the night wasn’t about sorrow.
“Everybody said, “How can you do this?” I just turn them over to God. I put them in God’s hands, everything will be alright,” said Gracie Broom, Senator Pinkney’s Grandmother.
She taught him to read the bible and she finds strength in their shared faith.
“Today I can say he’s gone, but he’s not forgotten,” she said.
Nadine Collier is the daughter of Ethel Lance. The two were inseparable. She knows her mother would want her to forgive her killer.
“He made a mistake. I know he made one because this is a child. So, I have to live on and continue knowing that my mom is in a better place,” she said.
In a day and time where that’s a hard thing to grasp, Myra Thompson’s sister, Elondelle Gadsden, believes each of the 9 had an inner light that she and others have to keep shinning.
“Each of them [is] special. [They’re] so different but so special. Just knowing all of them makes you understand that it’s going to be alright,” said Gadsden.
Friday’s grand finale was a children’s choir of more than 350 voices from across the area singing with the group “Pure-N-Heart. Together they hoped the evening would be one of healing.