SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A small group gathered in Saratoga Springs on Thursday for a vigil in honor of the Charleston church shooting victims.
On Wednesday, June 17, police said 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof opened fire on a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Nine people were killed: six women and three men.
Roof was later caught and arrested in Shelby, N.C. on Thursday, over 200 miles away. He waived his right to extradition and was returned to South Carolina.
In Saratoga Springs, dozens of people gathered for a vigil to call for healing. But many were troubled by a question that may never be answered. Why?
Members of the Saratoga Peace Alliance tried to spread love and honor the nine victims. For some, like Joy King, it was hard to find comfort.
Police are calling the shooting a hate crime. Reports say Roof shot the African American victims because “blacks were taking over the world, and someone had to do something about it.”
“It crushed me,” King said.
As people held hands and lit candles, organizer Linda LeTendre said she found hope in the community that participated.
“It’s a sign of hope that we can get through this, and we can do better than this,” she said.
Dr. Roxanne Jones Booth, a local pastor and professor of African American studies at the University at Albany, was wondering about the mindset of the shooter.
“Where did that come from?” she questioned. “You know you don’t read it in a book.”
“Who taught him that?” King wondered. “Where did that come from? That came from a very vile place.”
For Booth, she said it’s a painful truth revealed.
“It’s a reminder that we haven’t passed,” she said. “There is no post-racism.”
She also wonders why the AME church, with so much African American history, was chosen as Roof’s place of destruction.
“It was the very first African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South,” Booth said.
It was a church where Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of change.
“It would have been one of the places that [Dr. King] would have gone to speak and encourage and empower,” Booth said.
The Saratoga Peace Alliance said they were happy the vigil brought about that important discussion, and they hope change can come from the tragedy.