Airport board considers tribute to church shooting victims

File/Leroy Burnell/Staff A committee of Charleston County Aviation Authority members considers a tribute at Charleston International Airport to the nine victims of the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

From an interactive display to renaming a portion of Charleston International Airport, ideas of how to honor the nine victims of the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church flowed freely Tuesday during an airport board committee meeting.

The Governance/Human Resource Committee of Charleston County Aviation Authority discussed several options to memorialize the tragedy and the aftermath of forgiveness and community unity that followed.

While no decision was made, the consensus was that any action not be made quickly but include community input as well as that of the victims’ families. A special committee will be appointed to vet ideas.

“We can make a statement for those people involved in that tragic incident,” committee chairman Henry Fishburne said.

He suggested the expanded terminal, not the whole airport, be named for pastor and Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of those killed by avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof.

But he added that after talking with committee member Spencer Pryor, who did not attend the meeting, that whatever is done should include the eight other victims.

Airport board chairman Andy Savage agreed with Pryor.

“I would like to see a recognition of all of those involved,” Savage said.

Fishburne said his idea was a suggestion “put on the table” for everyone to consider and he is open to other possibilities.

Board member Helen Hill’s idea seemed to gain the most traction.

She preferred creating an interactive display on the Philip Simmons ironwork gazebo that once served as the centerpiece in the atrium before renovation and expansion of the terminal began nearly two years ago. It has been moved temporarily.

“We have an opportunity that no one else in the community has,” she said. “We have a responsibility to tell the story in a way that honors the people who were killed. The way we honor those who died is to keep telling the story.”

The interactive piece would not only tell of the tragic shooting, but also focus on the aftermath of the victims’ families forgiving the shooter less than two days after the shootings, of the community rallying together and of the peaceful events that followed, a stark contrast to protest and violence that have erupted across the country following other race-related incidents.

“Everybody who walks through the airport would have an opportunity to say, ‘Wow. How did they do that?’” Hill said.

Board member and Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page agreed with Hill.

She said naming the terminal in memory of someone was a great idea, but she said it is the story that needs to be told.

She also cautioned against moving too fast.

“I would like to explore this without doing things hastily,” Page said.

Former Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, who also sits on the airport board, said, “There is no question it needs to be all nine” victims included in whatever the airport does.

He suggested the interactive display include a video of President Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace.” The president sang part of the hymn at the end of his eulogy during Pinckney’s funeral.

Now that the national media have moved on, Savage said it’s up to the local community to continue the spirit of giving and unity shown after the shootings.

“It’s up to us to continue the story,” he said.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.