Many were surprised when Nadine Collier stood in a South Carolina courtroom a year ago and said she forgave the young white man who had just killed her mother and eight other black churchgoers in a racially motivated attack.
Collier’s sister, the Reverend Sharon Risher, recalls wondering how she could so readily absolve Dylann Roof, 22, the man accused of opening fire during a Bible study on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Ahead of the first anniversary on Friday, Risher and some others affected by the killings still cannot bring themselves to forgive. Roof will go on trial in November on federal hate crime charges that could result in a death sentence before facing state murder charges in January.
“I’m not bitter,” Risher, 57, said in a phone interview. “But I’m just not ready to forgive you if you don’t even act like you want to be forgiven.”
One year after that attack, the nation is again reeling from gun violence. The deaths of 49 people in Orlando this week in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history has left dozens more families blindsided by tragedy.
There will be no criminal proceedings for the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, who died in a gunfight with police. And while the shooting inside the historic church led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s capitol, it remains to be seen whether the latest massacre will spur change.
Away from the spotlight, the stories of those personally touched by the violence in Charleston illustrate its lasting impact. It continues to affect their lives, they said, straining family relationships, shifting career paths and leaving voids in their lives that no form of justice can fill.
Risher left her emergency room chaplain job in Dallas this spring, finding its emotional demands to be too much as she grieves her mother, Ethel Lance.
Some members of her family have become estranged in the aftermath of the shooting, she said, as each person mourns differently and struggles to make sense of what happened.
Risher longs for the days when she used to lie in her mother’s king-sized bed and they talked until one of them fell asleep.
“Charleston does not hold the same magic for me anymore,” she said. “Now going back, it’s just a cloud that hangs over. Even though the sun is shining, to me I see the gray.”
‘WE’RE THROUGH WITH HIM’
The Reverend Anthony Thompson’s wife, Myra, was killed in the attack, but he said he began to heal when he offered forgiveness to Roof at the bond hearing two days after the shooting.
Thompson, 65, has not attended subsequent hearings, choosing instead to focus on his preaching and new work advocating against gun violence.
“Dylann is not a part of my life or the life of my children,” he said. “That’s why we forgave him so that we can move on. We’re through with him.”
Alana Simmons, 26, lost her grandfather, the Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., in the shooting and her professional life changed course after that. The middle school music teacher moved from Virginia to South Carolina to run the Hate Won’t Win Movement, a non-profit organization that advocates for unity in a diverse society.
Focusing on the good to come from the tragedy helps her cope, she said.
“I don’t think that I could harbor hate in my heart and then go out and preach love,” she said.
Arthur Hurd, 46, remains angry. Angry at the church for keeping some of the more than $3 million in donations it received rather than distributing it all to the survivors and victims’ families. Angry that whether or not Roof gets the death penalty, it will not bring Hurd’s wife, Cynthia, back.
He has not returned to his job as a merchant mariner since her death. A grief counselor told him he is not ready, Hurd said.
“The only way I can jump for joy for the death penalty is if I am the one pulling the switch,” he said. “I have a hole in my chest, in my heart and my soul big enough that you could ride a freight train through it.”
(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott)
Donald Trump is no longer president: Robert Reich
You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. His verbal bombshells are louder than ever, but Donald J. Trump is no longer president of the United States.
By having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office.
He is not governing. He’s golfing, watching cable TV, and tweeting.
How has Trump responded to the widespread unrest following the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes as he was handcuffed on the ground?
He has incited more police violence. Trump called the protesters “thugs” and threatened to have them shot. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted, parroting a former Miami police chief whose words spurred race riots in the late 1960s.
Trump-loving Minneapolis police union boss calls the cops on a reporter for knocking on his door
Lt. Bob Kroll, the Trump-loving president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, called the police this week on a Washington Post reporter for the purported offense of knocking on the door of his house.
In an effort to get Kroll to respond to the charges that were filed this week against all four Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's death, the Post sent one of its reporter to Krolls house after multiple other requests for comment went unanswered.
"A Washington Post reporter who knocked on Kroll’s door was soon pulled over by a police officer who said that Kroll had reported suspicious activity on his front porch and that 'he doesn’t want any press,'" the paper reports.
‘I know a dying administration when I see one’: British journalist says brutal crackdown will seal Trump’s doom
British journalist Ed Luce called out Senate Republicans for covering a dying Trump administration that's threatening U.S. democracy as it gasps for survival.
The Financial Times' chief U.S. commentator told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that President Donald Trump is trying to crack down on dissent and rally his hardcore base as the coronavirus and now nationwide protests against police brutality threaten his re-election chances.
"There are other Republican senators who are keeping silent because they know that what Trump is doing, what Trump is suggesting, is wrong," Luce said. they're scared of a backlash if they speak out."