Powerful message of forgiveness

Flowers and ribbons line a makeshift memorial outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where a shooting took place, in Charleston, S.C., June 19, 2015. South Carolina's governor on Friday called for the 21-year-old man who is suspected of killing nine people in one of the South's most historic black churches to face the death penalty. (Travis Dove/The New York Times)

Citing unnamed law enforcement officers, CNN on Friday reported that the suspected killer of nine people in a Charleston church had confessed to the crime. And quoting a friend of Dylann Roof, the network reported that the goal was to ignite a race war. It’s just more evidence about Dylann Roof’s deluded world view.

In contrast, the extraordinary statements at a Friday bond hearing from family members of several killed at the Emanuel AME Church offered a perspective that puts those hate-filled ideas to shame.

Indeed, Felicia Sanders, who was present when nine of those in her Bible study group — including her son — were shot to death, spoke movingly of the terrible experience and the unredeemable loss of those who were killed.

“Every fiber in my body hurts, and I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero.”

But she added, “May God have mercy on you.”

It was a message of forgiveness that was shared by others who spoke at the hearing.

“I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, sister of the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, adding, “She taught me we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”

“I just want everybody to know ... I forgive you,” said Nadine Collier, the daughter of Ethel Lance. “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.”

For his part, Dylann Roof showed no evidence of emotion during the brief proceedings.

One of those who spoke at the hearing thanked Charleston County Chief Magistrate James Gosnell for giving family members the opportunity to speak, saying it was important “not to let hate win.”

On Friday afternoon, hate struck out.