The Christian Broadcasting Network

Browse Videos

Share Email

Heartbroken Families Forgive South Carolina Shooter

Families of Emmanuel AME Church respond to Dylann Roof, the man charged with murder in the church shooting in Charleston, SC. Read Transcript


NARRATOR: This is Charleston, South Carolina,

where remnants of the past linger on every corner.

It's home to more than 400 churches.

They're symbols of faith etched into the horizon.

Charleston is referred to as the Holy City simply

because of its number of churches.

During the days of the American Revolution and such,

it was considered a place of relative religious freedom

for groups such as the French Huguenots, the Catholics,

and even the Jews.

NARRATOR: And tucked away near the Charleston Harbor

stands Mother Emanuel, an AME church whose history stretches

back to the days of slavery.

The congregation settled here in 1891,

and became a beacon of hope during the 1960s,

advocating civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I don't see the answer

to our problem in riots.

So my slogan is not burn baby burn,

my slogan is build baby build, organize baby organize.

DAMON FORDHAM (VOICEOVER): told the audience,

I believe consistently in nonviolence.

From a moral point of view, this isn't the way.

From a practical point of view, this isn't the way.

NARRATOR: Mother Emanuel listened, and through the years

they lived and preached in love, acting as agents of peace

in times of disunity.

Then hate challenged their resolve.

June 17, 2015, members of Mother Emanuel

welcome a stranger into their Wednesday night Bible study.

An hour later, that stranger opens fire.

One of the men in the Bible study

was Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., a church staff member

and beloved grandfather of four.

My dad called me and told me, hey,

I might be going to Charleston.

There was a shooting at your grandfather's church.

Whether he was there or not, I'm on my way.

I got home.

I turned on CNN and it was like breaking news.

I was watching and praying all night.

We really didn't want that to be him.

NARRATOR: Daniel Simmons was a Vietnam War vet

and fourth generation preacher.

He answered to the name Dan, but those at Mother Emanuel

knew him as Super Simmons.

My grandfather was a very strong individual.

He was very strong-willed, and it

was hard to convince him of anything that he didn't already


In the same respect, I would say that he

was very strong in his faith.

And this home was all like a stack of sermons

that had just written out.

He had a sermon for almost anything that you can think of.

He loved the AME church.

I don't think that he would have preferred

to be any other place, knowing how much he

loved to study the Bible.

POLICE OFFICER: At 9:05 this evening,

we received a call of a shooting that had occurred at the church

here on Calhoun Street.

There were eight deceased individuals

inside of the church.

NARRATOR: But the ninth victim, Alana's grandfather,

was still breathing.

He suffered multiple gunshot wounds

and was rushed to the hospital.

As Alana waited to hear if he had made it through surgery,

the reality of what had happened began to sink in.

REPORTER: Police are still looking for the shooter.

He's described as a clean shaven white male in his early 20s.

MAN: The only reason someone could walk into a church

and shoot people praying is out of hate.

The Department of Justice has opened a hate crime

investigation into this shooting incident.

ALANA SIMMONS: How did this happen?

Why did this happen?

I can't believe this happened.

They're God's people.

I wanted him to be able to survive this situation.

I wanted to be able to just talk to him one more time.

NARRATOR: Hours later, Alana got another call.

Her grandfather didn't make it, and eight victims became nine.

ALANA SIMMONS: I was devastated.

To lose someone to a race crime like that,

especially in the middle of prayer,

it makes you angry to think that we're still

in that same place of hatred that we

were years and years ago.

REPORTER: The suspected gunman has been identified

as 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

He was captured just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina,

12 hours after opening fire on a historic black church.

The only thing that I could pray for

was peace for my family and for the city.

Racial tensions rise and the community is divided.

That's what I expected.

GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY: And I will tell you,

there's a lot of prayer in this state.

And so you are going to see all of us try and life these nine

families up in prayer, because they need us.

The blood of the Mother Emanuel nine requires us to work.

MAN: The world cannot understand why we're not crying at this


Why we're not bitter.


Two days after the shooting, a bunch of us

marched to Mother Emanuel.

We were clapping and singing spirituals like victory

is mine.

Victory is mine.

Victory today is mine.

As we were getting up at the church and singing these songs,

we heard this foreign sound coming

from the middle of the street, and we turned around.

The Jewish community of Charleston

made a circle in the middle of the street

and did the Kaddish, which is their Hebrew

prayer of the dead as a gesture of solidarity

with us in that tragedy.

NARRATOR: The following day, the surviving families

came together for Roof's bond hearing.

With emotions running high, a few of the family members

approached the front of the court room

to confront the man who had murdered their loved ones.

ALANA SIMMONS: I'm certain that at the time

that my grandfather served in the Army, and at the time

that he even grew up that he was mistreated simply because

of the way that he looked.

He never in his life would have been the kind

to harbor negative feelings.

He had to forgive them so that he

could go on and live and love.

NARRATOR: And she knew there was only one

way that she could truly honor his memory,

by forgiving his killer.

What started as a show of forgiveness in the courtroom

has now become a movement that Alana calls Hate Won't Win.

It is inspiring communities all over the country,

and it is all in honor of her grandfather.

ALANA SIMMONS: To show you that I can love you

and you can love me, and we can work together to better

our community.

That's what Hate Won't Win movement is all about.

I know that he's looking down on how

we've chosen to carry on his legacy

that he would be very, very proud of what we're doing.

NARRATOR: While the tragedy within these walls

will never be forgotten, the nine lives taken out of hate

live on in the hearts of those who have chosen to love.

One thing that we can say for now

is that there was this city called Charleston

who refused to listen to the voices of madness,

and chose wise counsel, and handled the situation

with grace and dignity.

ALANA SIMMONS: Knowing my grandfather,

he wouldn't have had it any other way.

Yes, I lost my grandfather.

Yes, other people lost their lives.

Yes, hate brought us here, but look

where love is going to take us.




Related Podcasts | Do You Know Jesus? | Privacy Notice | Prayer Requests | Support CBN | Contact Us | Feedback
© 2012 Christian Broadcasting Network