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Fundraising Begins For Charleston Church Shooting Memorial

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Fundraising is underway for a planned memorial designed to remember the victims and survivors of the 2015 massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. 

Nine people were killed when a white gunman opened fire during a Wednesday night Bible study at the historic African-American church. 


Plans for the memorial include a courtyard, fountain and benches. Architect Michael Arad, who designed the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City, created the design for the planned Charleston memorial following private discussions with family members of the shooting victims. In an online video, he described the initial meetings with the families.

“Those meetings were very difficult,” he said. “But for me, I think that process — as difficult as it is — is a key to developing empathy and understanding, and to hearing what peoples’ expectations and hopes are for a memorial.”­­­­­

Credit Maxine Smith
Dr. Maxine Smith

That willingness to listen is what Dr. Maxine Smith said impressed her with Arad’s work. She was on the committee that commissioned him for the memorial and said she was most impacted by the benches in Arad’s design.

“Most impressive for me from the design that was revealed was the wing-type benches that look like they might actually be wings,” Smith said. “Other members of the committee described them as being the inside of a slave ship, but you still got the impact that you were being embraced.”

Smith said she wants people who visit the memorial to “leave having a sense of hope and a sense of peace.” But in addition, she wants it to be a point of reflection and an opening for learning.  

“We hope it will be an ongoing opportunity for people to visit the church, visit the memorial, and think about the gun violence that we have in this country and in the world,” Smith said, “But also about the racial tensions that we continue to have.”

A foundation has currently raised more than $1 million toward an estimated goal of $10 to $15 million to build and maintain the memorial, and create programming around it. A construction timeline hasn’t yet been set.