Last week, I wrote about the impact of the murder of the Charleston Nine. That night, I attended a special prayer meeting to stand in the gap for the nine. They met on the last night of their lives to lift up others in prayer. Their church requested that we stand in the gap and pray in their place. Nine prayer warriors went to their heavenly home and prayer warriors need to step up.
To help us prepare to pray in their place, Tina Parker, my friend who organized this prayer time, read to us short bios on each of the nine. I asked her to share this information with me in order to post it on this blog. All I ask is that you remember the nine and stand in the gap for them during your own prayers.
Cynthia Graham Hurd served as a community leader and a career librarian with Charleston County Public Library for thirty-one years. Books were stacked everywhere in her house. Mrs. Hurd will most likely be remembered for helping to get the John Dart Branch library started on King Street. In a neighborhood where books are scarce in homes, the library system hesitated, saying the community wasn’t safe. She got the police involved enough so folks could come to the library after dark. Mrs. Hurd was currently the manager for the largest library branch in Charleston. The entire library system closed on Thursday, June 18, in honor of her memory. She would have turned 55 on June 21. Her husband is a merchant sailor at sea near Saudi Arabia.
Ethel Lance, aged 70, a sexton at Emanuel, lost her husband in 1988. They had a son and four daughters. She was a no-nonsense grandmother and her grandchildren are going to miss her terribly. She took care of her daughter Terrie during her losing fight with cancer. Her favorite song was “One Day at a Time.” One day at a time, sweet Jesus. That’s all I’m asking of you, just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do.” Many times, Mrs. Lance would sing it through tears as she was mourning the loss of her daughter. Her cousin was…
Susie Jackson, aged 87, had two children but raised so many relatives that her family puts the actual figure closer to fifty children! She was known for family, Bible reading, and dapper dressing. Her favorite book of the Bible was Proverbs. Sunday dinners at her house started with one or two guests but ended up with dozens around the table. “She could stir a mean pot of collard greens,” said her nephew Robert Sanders. She opened her arms to everybody.
Her nephew, Tywanza Sanders, 26, tried to protect her. He was killed as well. He leaves behind grieving parents, a sister, and two brothers. He was working as a barber, having graduated from Allen University in 2014 with a business administration degree. He was busy rehearsing for a play, his first ever. The title? “Life” The cast is devastated.
Myra Thompson, aged 59, was head of the church’s property committee. Described as a very energized, serving-God type of person, her family includes a loving husband, Rev. Anthony Thompson, one son, one daughter, one step-son, twelve brothers, and two grandchildren and a host of loving nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives, and friends. She received her license to the ministry on Wednesday night, hours later, she was gunned down.
Nine hours before Rev. Clementa Pinckney was killed, he was in the Statehouse pushing colleagues to boost benefits for foster children. At lunch that day, a colleague mentioned the group was collecting money to give the Senate’s janitorial staff. The Rev pulled out his wallet and contributed a $20. Sen. Sheheen said, “Clem wasn’t a rich person but last time I saw him he was giving.” He was known for that in Charleston. In 1995, he became the youngest African-American elected to the SC legislature. He was elected to the Senate in 2000. On April 14, Rev. Pinckney pushed for legislation to help law enforcement agencies get body cameras. Sen. Setzler called that “probably his finest moment in the SC Senate.” He leaves behind a wife and two young daughters, Eliana and Malana.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a speech pathologist and a girls’ track coach at Goose Creek High School. She had two sons. Her son, Chris, is a member of the Charleston Southern baseball team. She told the baseball coach not to go easy on his players, they needed to learn to be men. Her son is such a young man, taking care of his sisters and brothers. Chris said, “My mom was a God-fearing woman and she loved everybody with all her heart.”
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, 74, was the only victim not to die in the church building. He died in surgery at MUSC. “We love him and we miss him,” said his granddaughter, Ava Simmons.
Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, was retired as Director of the Charleston County Community Development Block Growth Program. Last year she began working for Southern Wesleyan University as Admissions Coordinator for the Charleston Learning Center. She sang in the choir. Her friend of 15 years, Jackie Starkes remembers the Reverends’ voice, “So angelic, it could move the very depth of your heart… How do you describe an angel?”
I’m struck by the impact each of these people had on the community. Their murderer wanted to eradicate the world of his twisted perception of evil. Instead, he extinguished the lights of God-fearing people who lived their lives to serve others. How ironic.