Saturday marked the two year anniversary of the shooting massacre at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina that claimed the lives of nine worshippers. To coincide with the remembrance, it was announced that famed architect Michael Arad, who is responsible for the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, would design a memorial to honor those who were callously murdered during a Bible study class by gunman Dylan Roof in June 2015. Roof, now 23, was sentenced to death in January, after a federal jury found him guilty of hate crimes. He is appealing the sentence.
The forthcoming Arad-designed memorial is one of several spaces at Emanuel dedicated to the men and women involved in Roof’s attack. There is already a prayer garden under construction on the property, and 15 trees are planted on the church’s front lawn to commemorate the nine who died and the five who survived. The final tree is in honor of all Emanuel parishioners. Commemorative plaques were added to the trees this year.
Emanuel AME pastor Rev. Eric Manning hopes the new marmoreal will serve as a constant reminder of the historically black church’s strength and resolve.
“This memorial on the grounds of the church will help keep the memory of the Emanuel 9 alive and honor the resilience of the families, survivors and church members,” he said in a statement.
Likewise, Arad believes this project comes with a great responsibility to honor the victims, their families, and the entire church community.
“I will do my utmost to honor the memory of the deceased and give voice to the injured, the grieving families, and the community. I look forward to engaging in a collaborative design process with hope and humility,” Arad said. “It is our hope that his work on our memorial will evoke the weight of the tragedy as well as send an inspiring mandate for positive change to the world.”
In addition to announcing the new memorial, Saturday also served as a day of remembrance. Crowds gathered in Charleston for the “The Hate Won’t Win Unity Walk,” which saw participants walk arm and arm toward to the church singing “Amazing Grace,” as the Emanuel church bells rang nine times in memory of the victims.