CHARLESTON, South Carolina— Myra Thompson had been planning to step away from teaching Bible study on Wednesday nights at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. She’d fallen ill in recent months and wanted to spend more time resting and getting back to better health. But she agreed to stay on for a couple more weeks until the church could find a replacement. So, Thompson, ever the dutiful steward, kept on teaching, according to family.
Thompson, 59, taught her final Bible study at the grand, historic church on Wednesday night. Gunman Dylann Storm Roof, 21, admittedly opened fire on Thompson and nearly a dozen other people inside the church. Nine people were killed, including Thompson and the church’s pastor.
“It has been so painful,” said J.A. Moore, Thompson’s half-brother, who also had ties to a number of the other victims of Wednesday’s shooting. “There’s no precedence in my life for this. I don’t know how to respond. Part of me is like super angry and wants some real justice, not just locking this kid up or even him getting the death penalty because it isn’t enough.”
Moore said the shooting is about more than the shooter and points to the culture that created him.
“There’s no one speech that someone can give, no one protest or rally or vigil or march or document to fix this,” Moore told msnbc. “The answer isn’t easy, the answer doesn’t come over a period of a month or a year. These are the same things that have been happening to us for hundreds of years.”
“This isn’t the first time a black church has been victimized by terrorism,” he continued. “The black community has been terrorized since we got here. Terrorism isn’t new for black people.”
Indeed, the history of America and Charleston in particular is rife with the violence of white supremacists aimed at African-Americans, including violence at houses of worship.
Among those killed at Emanuel A.M.E Church was the church’s pastor, State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., 74; Susie Jackson, 87; DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49 and Ethel Lance, 70. This group has been described as spiritual leaders and mentors of the church community.
“This is when you fall back on that faith that you purport to have and let that faith sustain you,” said Joseph Darby, a vice president of the Charleston NAACP.
Darby said Pinckney was a good friend and protégé, that Simmons was an old classmate and that he presided over Hurd’s wedding. Moore also shared a relationship with many of the victims.
Moore’s father, the late James Alexander Moore, a renowned local community leader and political operative, ran pastor Pinckney’s field program when he first ran for the state legislature. The younger Moore also sits on the county library board and frequently worked with Cynthia Hurd, who was the branch manager at the St. Andrews Library.
Myra Thompson was born to the elder Moore during a previous marriage.
J.A. Moore said the last time he, Thompson and the rest of their siblings had all been together was at their father’s funeral more than two years ago. He said Thompson would make weekly calls to each of the siblings trying to plan a family reunion of sorts. She was killed before that reunion could come to fruition.
“It’s sad because now the next time we’ll all be together will be to go to her funeral,” Moore said. “All of us are kind of beating ourselves up. That was her big wish. She wanted all of us to be together as a family. She really wanted that. Its’ sad it took this to make it happen.”
Moore said the family is getting together this weekend to join Thompson’s husband and children in make funeral arrangements.