Clutching the blood-stained Bible she had with her when Dylann Roof executed nine family and friends around her, Felicia Sanders told the self-avowed white supremacist in court Wednesday that she still forgives him for his actions. They have scarred her life but haven't shaken her faith.
Addressing Roof the day after a jury sentenced him to death, Sanders said the mass shooting that killed nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015 has left her unable to hear a balloon pop or an acorn fall without being startled. She can no longer shut her eyes when she prays.
But she will carry on, she told him, and continue to follow the words of God still clear in the battered Bible she cherishes.
"I brought my Bible to the courtroom ... shot up," she said. "It reminds me of the blood Jesus shed for me and you, Dylann Roof."
Sanders, who lost her son Tywanza and her aunt Susie Jackson in the shooting, told Roof that when she looks at him she sees "someone who is cold, who is lost, who the devil has come back to reclaim."
As many times as I've praised the Charleston, S.C., daily's coverage of the massacre and its aftermath — most recently on Wednesday — I know I sound like a broken record.
But the latest story by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes and her Post and Courier colleagues is again filled with relevant, compelling religious details such as these:
Dan Simmons Jr., speaking in a low, hissing whisper, said his faith requires him to pray for Roof and he has done so. He encouraged Roof to find that same spirit, that same river of faith, within himself, and drive out the evil spirit dwelling within.
“I forgive you for you actions. You are just a body being used. You didn’t understand the presence of the evil that possesses you," he said. "But thank God that he gives us the opportunity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the heartbeat that pulls us to another level.”
Myra Thompson's sister, Marlene Coakley-Jenkins, offered Roof similar counsel, telling him to take "ownership of who you can be" and release the hate.
"God has a place for all of us," she said.
I'll resist the urge to copy and paste the entire story and simply encourage you to take the time to read it all.
In a previous post, I noted that the best stories about the Roof case don't focus on the killer — but on the victims.
The latest Post and Courier coverage only reinforces that message — times a million.