On this hot, humid Saturday, in Charleston, South Carolina, hundreds of people gathered once more at Emanuel AME Church to pay their respects and say their final farewells to three of the nine people killed in last week’s shooting during a Bible study class. Family, friends, strangers black and white, all came together for “home going” services for Cythia Hurd, Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders.
Cynthia Graham Hurd
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has attended all six of the funerals held so far for the victims who’ve come to be known as “the Emanuel Nine,” said 54-year-old Cynthia Hurd was someone she only read about but wishes she had known. “I love the fact that she said she was inspired by her mom because ‘can’t’ was never in her vocabulary,” Haley told the mourners.
Standing on the pulpit, decorated on both sides with huge matching floral arrangements of colorful, yellow and red flowers, Haley joked that, “After every service I come to, I’m convinced I’m going to become an AME member after this.”
Hurd’s casket was adorned with a huge spray of pink and burgundy roses. Framing both sides of the casket, were nearly life-sized photos of Hurd from important occasions in her life. Next to the casket — a large, heart-shaped floral wreath dominating the sanctuary, infused with a startling bunch of red roses in the middle, bringing to mind a broken heart.
One after another friends, co-workers and relatives spoke of how loved Hurd was in her community. They spoke of how she never had kids of her own, but “adopted” everyone else’s kids, and of how much her loss had impacted her husband, Steve.
Rev. Jesse Jackson marveled at how the community of Charleston had come together, turning the other cheek and showing love in the face of hatred.
“Cythia Hurd not only taught us how to love, it was her family who taught us how to forgive,” said Haley. “She not only taught us how to love, it was her family who taught us how to forgive,” she said.
Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders
Almost as soon as one funeral ended, the next began for 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders and his 86-year-old aunt Susie Jackson. They were together at Bible study that fateful night. When the shooting began he jumped up to try to protect his aunt and both were killed. They were remembered together on Saturday.
Both caskets sat before the pulpit — a huge spray of pink flowers on hers and dark purple flowers on his.
There were words of comfort from Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr., who has also attended every funeral. “Within this heartbreaking tragedy,” he said, “you, the family and this community of prayer have sent a desperately needed message to the world. And that is: you respond to hate with love.”
Referencing the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, Jackson said there have been efforts to “get it down” for many years. “But, somehow there’s power in the blood,” he told the mourners. “And the stained banner of blood brought it down and it will stay down.” Jackson also thanked Haley for saying publicly that it was time for the flag to come down.
Haley spoke again from the pulpit at the funerals of Jackson and Sanders, saying, “It doesn’t matter how many funerals you go, to they’re all hard, because it shouldn’t have happened.”
Haley spoke directly to the families telling them, “I’ve struggled through all of these funerals because this happened on my watch. And what I can tell you is we will make this right. They will not have died in vain.”
Three more funerals remain
The funeral for the Rev, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, who was 49, is planned for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, also at Emanuel AME Church.
On Monday, Myra Thompson, who was 59, will be laid to rest. Her funeral will take place at Emanuel AME Church as well.
Plans have not been announced for the funeral of the Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr. who was 74.