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Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Religion center hosts vigil for Charleston shooting victims


“One (family member of a victim) said how every fiber of her being hurts, and another said, ‘I forgive you.’ And that’s the sermon,” said Rev. Laureen Suba at the Charleston shooting vigil. | Trey Strange/The Cougar

White, black, old, young and everything between gathered in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center for a candlelight vigil and moment of silence at 4 p.m. today to honor the victims of the Charleston shooting on Wednesday.

“We have hope in our hearts; we have anger in our hearts,” said Rev. Laureen Suba of United Campus Ministry. “Only You know why hate would run so deep that it would cause one of Your creations to kill others.”

During the vigil, Rev. Suba named each victim and shared details of their lives. The victims were Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Singleton, Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson.

For Suba, they were a band of God-fearing teachers and students, university employees and library workers. Mothers, grandmothers, fathers, sons and daughters.

“I grieve for every human being (who) dies,” Suba said. “It is our call to love all, regardless of skin color.”

Mandisa Oliver, who works as a coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity Services, attended the ceremony because, as a member of a community, she felt connected to the tragedy and wanted to pray for the affected family members. And although she realized the heartache caused by the incident, she said she doesn’t leave it to herself to judge the killer.

“I would probably say to (the killer), ‘God have mercy.’ That’s all I could say,” Oliver said. “’God have mercy on your soul’.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, churches have started rethinking their security measures, and concerning reports have appeared, displaying a growing frequency of mass shootings. Oliver, however, refuses to live in fear.

“We have to live. People have to live. We have to continue to reach our higher power — be it through church, be it through gatherings, be it through wherever and however,” Oliver said. “We cannot allow this to stop our movement and our progression … so we have to continue to live. We have to continue to be, and we have to continue to do.”

Richard Baker, assistant vice president of the Office of Equal Opportunity Services, sat in the front pew while the reverend spoke.

“I wanted to pay remembrance. It was an awful tragedy,” Baker said. “I just wanted to remember the individuals (who) lost their lives.”

Baker admitted that he didn’t have any personal connection in the affected area. But, he still felt called to the vigil — not because of his skin color or office job or religion. Instead, he felt “the personal connection of being human.”

“That’s it,” he said. “That’s precisely it.”

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