Charleston mourns the death of nine slain at church

  • Family friend Kendrell Heriot, 11, of Gresham, South Carolina, holds an American flag before the start of the burial service of Reverend Clementa Pinckney at the St James AME Church Cemetery in Marion, S.C. 
  • Reverand Clementa Pinckney’s widow Jennifer (2ND L) and daughters, Eliana (C) and Malana (R), at the funeral services for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, June 26, 2015. 
  • President Barack Obama embraces Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton as he leaves services honoring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, June 26, 2015. 
  • Mourners bow their heads in prayer during the funeral service where U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy for South Carolina State senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, S.C. 
  • U.S. President Barack Obama leads mourners in singing the song “Amazing Grace” as he delivers a eulogy in honor of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney during funeral services for Pinckney in Charleston, S.C. 
  • Mourners attend funeral services for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston South Carolina June 26, 2015. 
  • Mourners pray during the funeral at the College Charleston TD Arena for South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who was killed during the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church along with eight others on June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
  • President Barack Obama speaks in front of the casket of Rev. Clementa Pinckney during funeral services for Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina, June 26, 2015.
  • Malana Pinckney, daughter of Reverand Clementa Pinckney, is hugged by her mother Jennifer at the start of her father’s funeral at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., June 26, 2015.
  • Rev. Kylon Jerome Middleton speaks during the funeral at the College Charleston TD Arena for his friend South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who was killed during the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church along with eight others on June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
  • Mourners embrace next to the casket of Sen. Clementa Pinckney before his funeral service, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
  • Mourners sing gospel hymns during the funeral service for South Carolina State senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.
  • People watch as the hearse carrying South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney passes by as they line up to enter the TD Arena on June 26, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Members of the clergy wait to enter the funeral service where U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for South Carolina State Sen. Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting June 26, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.
  • Members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and others line up near the church as they wait to walk to the College Charleston TD Arena where the funeral of South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney who was killed during the mass shooting at the church along with eight others in a mass shooting at the church on June 26, 2015, will take place in Charleston, S.C.
  • Lauretta Geddis, of Charelston, S.C., rear right, embraces Brenda T. Williams, of North Charelston, while waiting on line to enter Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral service, June 26, 2015, in Charleston. 
  • Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church is seen in the background as women dressed in white wait to enter the funeral service where U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy for South Carolina State Sen. Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting June 26, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.
  • Doris Simmons of Charleston stands across the street from Emanuel AME Church, the scene of last week’s mass shooting, as the sun rises, June 26, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina – Thousands of mourners gathered across Charleston on Friday to pay their final respects to Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people fatally shot in the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer session last week. 

President Obama delivered the eulogy Friday to honor Pinckney’s life and influence as a beloved church leader and state legislator who offered his life to public service since he was first elected to the South Carolina state legislature at the age of 23. 

“We are here today to remember a man of god who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance,” Obama said. “What a life Clementa Pinckney lived, an example that he set. A model for his faith.”

Obama praised Pinckney’s strive to help the under-served, and struck a personal tone, having met the pastor years ago.

“The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor,” Obama said. “Wise beyond his years in his speech, his conduct in his love, faith and purity.”

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Mourners started gathering for the service here long before dawn, with crowds soon swelling to the thousands outside the TD Arena in downtown Charleston. It didn’t take long for the 5,200-person arena to reach full capacity, leaving thousands to tune in at spillover spaces throughout the city. 

Friends, former colleagues and religious leaders spoke for the hours-long service, sharing stories of Pinckney’s big heart and gentle voice. First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were in attendance, as well as former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A bipartisan group of lawmakers joined the president on Air Force One to attend the service, including House Speaker John Boehner and Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Lewis.

A program for the service was lined with photos of Pinckney and his loved ones, including heartfelt messages from his family. “I know you were shot at the Church and you went to Heaven. I love you so much!” Pinchney’s daughter Malana wrote, signing the note, “Love your baby girl and grasshopper.”

Earlier in the day, supporters and congregants from across state lines convened at the historic black church, commonly referred to as Mother Emanuel, to watch the procession as a hearse carried Pinckney’s body away. Pinckney, a 41-year-old father of two, was named pastor of the church in 2010.

A day earlier, the funerals for two other victims in last week’s massacre were held in Charleston. Ethal Lance, a 70-year-old church custodian, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a minister and high school track coach, were laid to rest.

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