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Reverend Sharon Risher speaks at a press conference held by Democratic senators calling for action on gun violence on June 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Powerful

On the anniversary of the Charleston church shooting, a reverend shares her journey to forgiveness

By WITW Staff on June 17, 2019

To mark the four-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina, Reverend Sharon Risher shares the story of losing her mother, two cousins, and a childhood friend in the massacre, telling her story in a powerful book except in Elle.

“When the killer was escorted into the courtroom, he never looked at us,” she says of the white supremacist who killed nine people in the church on June 17, 2015. “He kept his head down and maintained a rigid posture throughout the proceedings. No movement. No sign of remorse. When I entered the courtroom for the first time and sat just 15 feet from Dylann Roof, it felt like I was in the presence of pure evil.”

She adds, “When you’re occupying a room with pure evil, you have to stand up on the inside, with your head held high.”

In her new memoir, For Such a Time As This, she details her life in the years before and after the shooting, and her path to eventual forgiveness. It took time, she says, noting that even as a reverend, she did not forgive at first.

Recounting her experience at the trial, she writes, “I sat with the family members of the other victims. Listening to the details of what had happened to our loved ones, it felt as if scabs were being ripped from our bodies. We heard the terrible details of what had happened to our beloved. We saw the awful photos and every piece of evidence they had against this evil person. Lord, it was hard!”

However, she says, “If someone got overwhelmed with emotion, someone nearby would place a comforting hand on that person’s back or someone in the next seat would extend a hand. We formed such a bond. Nobody’s family was more important than anyone else’s. We were in this together.”

Read the full story at Elle.

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