Hundreds form 'human heart' in Marion Square in wake of church shooting

Hundreds moved into place in Marion Square Wednesday night in "a heart shaped message to the people of the world that we will uniteþÄù following last weekþÄôs fatal shooting of nine people attending a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church about 2 blocks away. The view is from the Franics Marion Hotel. Wade Spees/Staff June 24, 2015

At least 400 people joined hands Wednesday evening and formed a large heart in Marion Square.

Their energy was electric as they waved and cheered for overhead drones taking their picture. The Holy City Heart Project was put together in about three days in an effort to show solidarity among the community.

Organizers were concerned that the city would be respond negatively after last week's shooting that left nine people dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

“We were so worried that this city was going to fall apart or that something awful was going to happen because somebody tried to start a spark of madness and terror to bring us down,” said Eli Latham, an organizer. “But, Charleston has laid 10,000 gallons on his spark and just continued to pour water to put any ignition out and it's been beautiful.”

The event featured live music, speakers and a drum circle in a celebration meant to lift the city's spirits.

Natalie Tucker of Charleston said she thought it was “really awesome” to see everyone come together at the event. “It's a big family,” she said of Charleston. “Its definitely an example that should be set for other cities.”

Tucker and a friend said they felt like they were witnessing history.

“We want to be apart of something and we want to do anything we can to support the community and come together,” Tucker said.

A local pastor, Philip Pinckney, spoke at the event and said while there is still anger after the shooting, Charleston will not be broken or divided.

“There is a place for grieving, and if you're not in a place for forgiveness, that's OK. If you're still angry, that's OK,” he told the crowd. “If you don't know what to do, that's OK too. The Bible gives a place to grieve. The Bible gives us place to be angry. ... But we're going to do that in a safe, God-loving way.”

He added that the event was the beginning of a journey to healing.

Anthony Goff of Charleston said he took that message to heart. He said seeing everyone form the large heart was proof to him that “God is everywhere.”

“This is something to make you think,” he said of the event. “It makes me feel happy. Everything is about togetherness. I wish there could be more events like this.”

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.