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Shock, Forgiveness, Grief: A Profound Week For South Carolina


Shock, grief, forgiveness - a wrenching and remarkable week in South Carolina. The state is still trying to come to terms with the murder of nine African-Americans allegedly at the hands of a self-confessed white supremacist. But in their sadness, many South Carolinians have also found reason to hope, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: South Carolina rose to its greatest height during the last week. Those are the words of Bishop Richard Norris, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, speaking yesterday at a funeral service for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney in Charleston.


BISHOP RICHARD NORRIS: There is no period in the history of this great state that will excel the love and togetherness that exemplified itself as a result of the dastardly act that was perpetrated a few days ago.

ROSE: Reverend Pinckney and eight members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston were murdered during a Wednesday night Bible study. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, appeared in court last Friday. Family members of the victims were there, too. And Nicole Collier, who lost her mother, Ethel Lance, in the shooting, addressed Roof directly.


NICOLE COLLIER: I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but God forgive you, and I forgive you.

ROSE: A race war was Dylann Roof's stated aim. He published a photo of himself online holding a gun in one hand and the Confederate battle flag in the other. The murders rekindled an old debate in South Carolina about the flag, which flies on the grounds of the Statehouse, though maybe not for long.


GOV NIKKI HALEY: We are here in a moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it's time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.


ROSE: Governor Nikki Haley took that position on Monday. Within days, many of her fellow Republicans in the state and across the South followed suit. The flag debate is on hold as South Carolinians turn to funeral services for the shooting victims.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (Singing) Amazing grace.


ROSE: President Obama broke into song during his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney yesterday. Mr. Obama praised him as a state senator and a pastor who saw no contradiction between his two callings.


OBAMA: He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long.

ROSE: The 5,000-seat arena where the funeral was held filled up quickly. Hundreds of mourners gathered in other venues across the region to watch the service. Birdie Riley (ph) followed the funeral on television screens above the altar at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. Riley knew Pinckney from her work as a school board chair in his state senate district.

BIRDIE RILEY: The last two weeks have been, of course, are full of sadness. We lost a great voice, but it also gave us strength to let us know that we must still continue to stand up to fight for our children and for our communities.

ROSE: The ceremony capped a week of lows and highs that was unlike anything Birdie Riley could remember. Joel Rose, NPR News, Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.