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Thousands come to Charleston to honor those who died in church shooting

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WNCN) – People have been stopping by Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church leaving flowers and ribbons, and generally grieving one year to the day after nine parishioners were killed here.

The day started with a service as nearly 5,000 people filled TD Arena to remember those killed by a gunman.

“Its been a tremendous blow to the family and the community and to the nation,” Jamila Gadsden said.

Gadsden’ aunt, Myra Thompson, was one of the victims who were attending a Bible study at the historic church when a gunman opened fire.

Despite those actions and that heartbreak, just days later, several family members of the victims said they forgave the shooter. Gadsden says she has.

“I don’t think we’re able to carry any of that with us and still be able to move forward,” she said.

Gadsden and others in this congregation and community are comforted by their faith.

“We understand that God came for his very best in the church that particular night,” said Belinda Frasier of the Women’s Missionary Society. “They were the very best.”

Security has been stepped up at the church today but it’s not normally like that. And it means a lot for those who knew the victims and survivors that so many have come to Charleston to mark this somber day.

“It shows me that the community is able to come together and just to show their love and concern for the Emanuel 9,” said Rev. Franklin Rutledge of Georgestown, South Carolina.