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WFAE Documentary On The Charleston Shootings Premieres Friday

Gwendolyn Glenn

Late last year there was a sign posted outside a church in Charleston. The kind spelled out with small white plastic letters pushed into black felt. It read, "We thank you for your many acts of kindness."

It's a message that might as well be aimed at a man named Memo. He gave no last name.

Memo says he walks past this historic church a lot, many times a day. And each time he does the same thing. "I take my hat off. It's respect."

For nine people who lost their lives to a horrific act of hate.

The church is known widely as Mother Emanuel, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South.

Which is why, in June of 2015, Dylann Roof picked this church as the site of a massacre.

The killings and their complicated aftermath are the subject of a special WFAE presentation Eyes Closed in Prayer which airs January 20 at 8 pm, and then again over the weekend. WFAE’s Tom Bullock and Gwendolyn Glenn joined Morning Edition Host Marshall Terry to talk about the documentary.

MT:  Tom you wrote and produced Eyes Closed in Prayer. And it's about much more than the trial of Dylann Roof.

TB: For some, the fact that Dylann Roof will die for his crimes that Wednesday night brings a sense of closure and of justice.

But for others, this is just the first chapter of a longer story. So Eyes Closed in Prayer tells the story of the trial through the voices of family members of the victims. It also gives us a chance to examine not just the motive and the crime, but gain some insights into Dylann Roof himself.

MT:  Gwendolyn, besides hosting the documentary, you also went to Charleston to report on the trial and aftermath. What did you find?

GG: I found a city that on the surface looked as if it was business as usual, but in talking to people throughout the city, the church shooting and the trial taking place in the heart of Charleston was something constantly on their minds. Whether they were a church member, a victim's relative or friend or a resident, they all seemed to be struggling with why this happened and were still at various stages of healing.

That's just one of the reasons the aftermath is so complicated.

Eyes Closed in Prayer premieres Friday, January 20 at 8 pm. It will be rebroadcast Saturday at 2 pm, and Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.