Charlotte Sister Living With Loss, Learning About Survival Two Years After Charleston Shootings
Saturday marks the second anniversary of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Nine church members were shot and killed during a Wednesday night Bible study on June 17, 2015.
The Charleston shootings prompted national outrage, brought down a Confederate flag, and launched family members of the victims on sudden journeys of grief and recovery. A year ago, we introduced you to one of those families in Charlotte. This week, WFAE's Mark Rumsey checked back in with the family of Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor.
The conversation took place around the kitchen table in the Charlotte home of Bethane Middleton-Brown, DePayne's younger sister, and included their parents, Rev. Leroy Middleton and Frances Middleton.
This week's visit came as family members were celebrating the graduation of Bethane's son, Bryce, from Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte. On a day marked by graduation joy, the family demonstrated a nimble ability to negotiate a range of emotions as they discussed their feelings two years after the tragedy at Emanuel AME.
It's pretty much the same, as far as the pain. You don't get over it in that sense... I think I've learned a lot about survival and moving forward. - Bethane Middleton-Brown
Dylann Roof was convicted in December of hate crimes and other federal offenses. In January, the jury sentenced him to die. Earlier this year, Roof pleaded guilty to nine murder counts in South Carolina and received nine consecutive life prison sentences.
"They'll put him to death probably, eventually," says Bethane Middleton-Brown, who adds that she was okay with either the death penalty or life in prison for her sister's killer. "But he'll die so much more from conscience and guilt," she says.
Bethane and DePayne's father says his mindset about what should happen to Roof changed during the trial. "I did not want to see him go to the chair," says Rev. Leroy Middleton. But after hearing Roof's lack of remorse, Middleton concluded the death penalty was appropriate.
The family has found strength in follow-up phone calls, emails, and other demonstrations of support from prosecutors and others in the judicial system who handled Roof's cases. Frances Middleton says her daughter's friends have been a steady source of strength. "I get a lot of calls, a lot of visits, a lot of counseling," she says, adding, "they're still coming."
Events commemorating the second anniversary of the Emanuel AME Church shootings will continue through the end of the month in Charleston. The Middleton family will attend some of those memorial events. And, they're especially looking forward to Saturday, June 24. It's a day designated by Charleston city leaders to honor DePayne, as part of a proclamation remembering each of the Emanuel 9.