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Charleston Prayer Vigil Honors 9 Victims Of Deadly Church Shooting


It's in details from South Carolina that you sense a community insisting on its humanity in the face of awful news. The news was the killing of nine people in a Charleston church.


The details come from the local paper, The Post and Courier. It describes a vigil yesterday for the victims. People sometimes applauded.

INSKEEP: And when they sang a hymn called "My Hope Is Built," many clapped along in a way that made the moment seem almost optimistic. Other people gathered outside the church where the killings took place. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: A steady stream of cars passed by Emanuel AME Church last night. The towering white building, illuminated by the lights of television crews, stood out against a darkening sky. People gathered to take pictures, and some, like Eileen Hoffman, struggling to hold back tears, crawled under yellow police tape stretched in front of the building to lay flowers on a growing memorial. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, we misidentify Carol Rawle as Eileen Hoffman and David Rawle as Larry Sherfield.]

CAROL RAWLE: From our garden. We're neighbors; we live in the neighborhood. It's just such an important landmark. How could we not come?

CORLEY: Her husband, Larry Sherfield, said everyone wanted to show their respect and how much they cared for those who died and for their families.

DAVID RAWLE: This is such an aberrant incident that we just naturally come together and honor those who we've lost - and good, good people who were important parts of this community. And they're our neighbors. We love them.

CORLEY: Bill Canty, in town for business, called Wednesday's bloodbath both a hate crime and an act of terrorism intended to have lasting consequences.

BILL CANTY: Can you imagine? Now people sitting in black churches across the city now will be very uncomfortable in Bible study.

CORLEY: But Canty added that he was moved by the mix of people who came to the church because it showed him that the shooting was affecting everybody and not just blacks.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) What a friend we have in Jesus.

CORLEY: Several hundred people showed up for a prayer vigil at a nearby Presbyterian Church. Rev. Sidney Davis said while there is true suffering and evil in the world, if those gathered there believed Jesus did not die in vain, they must also believe the same is true for those slain this week as they studied the Bible.


REV SIDNEY DAVIS: Those people did not die in vain. But they have called all of us together to serve God in our own way.


CORLEY: Afterwards, many at the vigil walked and gathered again at Emmanuel AME. Debra Capraro, who was born and raised about six blocks away from the church, was among them. Capraro, who's been working with a Black Lives Matter group over the April killing of Walter Scott, a black man shot by a white North Charleston police officer now charged with murder, said it was difficult for her to describe how she felt about this tragedy.

DEBRA CAPRARO: It doesn't make sense to me that this little 21-year-old boy would risk losing the rest of his life to come and shoot up a church where people are praying. It makes no sense to me. I can't wrap my brain around that. I don't believe he just got it in his head to come and kill some black people. I just don't believe it.

CORLEY: William Mitchell had no trouble believing and talked about reports that the young white man arrested in connection with the shooting had received a gun for his birthday.

WILLIAM MITCHELL: And I understand his father gave it to him, which - I know his father probably is feeling pretty badly about the situation here right now. I will hope he does. But he was not a person that should have a gun.


CORLEY: But while Mitchell talked gun control, others in front of the church weren't sure that would've made a difference in the tragedy that occurred here. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: June 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM EDT
In the audio of this story, we misidentify Carol Rawle as Eileen Hoffman and David Rawle as Larry Sherfield.
Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.