CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Cynthia Hurd was looking forward to retirement. For 31 years, she worked as a librarian in Charleston County, most recently as manager at St. Andrews Regional Library.
On June 17, Hurd, also a wife and sister, was among nine people killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. She was just four days shy of her 55th birthday.
Saturday, hundreds gathered at Mother Emanuel to celebrate her life. Among the crowd was United States Congressman Jim Clyburn, who said of Hurd, "she was my daughter's best friend."
"Nobody here thought we would ever see a day like this in Charleston. but what we have come to grips with is these things happen, and sometimes they happen in your homeland," Clyburn said.
Clyburn referred to the state's motto, "While I breathe, I hope," saying he always repeats that motto to children when he speaks to them.
"Today, because of the life of Cynthia Hurd and eight other great people, I have hope today," he said. "I have great hope that South Carolina is going to live out its motto that none of would have ever believed."
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said the sorrow we feel is so deep in our being that we can't escape it.
He referred to the Sept. 15, 1963 bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four children were killed and said that what happened in the first floor of Emanuel AME on June 17 is now part of Charleston's history books.
"But the consciousness of our country has changed in these 50 years," he said. "So much progress has been made. So this hateful act in this church shook America that didn't want to believe or couldn't believe that this kind of hate could still exist in our country."
"Her death says to us honor and suffering is receptive," The Rev. Jesse Jackson said. "There's power in innocent blood."
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also spoke at the service, saying that all of the victims' funerals she has saved the programs and taken them home to show to her children and told them about the people who were lost.
"Today I will take the program and I will talk about Cynthia, someone who I read about and so wish that I knew, because I so love the fact that she said she was inspired by her mom and 'can't' was not in her vocabulary," Haley said. "I love the fact that she lived by the motto, 'Be kinder than necessary.' That's what I will take with me."
Haley said she is sorry these killings happened on her watch, but vowed, "We will make this right," adding, "Cynthia taught our state and country how to love."
Hurd's funeral service was the first held at the church since a lone gunman took the lives of nine of it's members.
The Charleston County Public Library closed all 16 branches Saturday, in honor of the home going service, allowing many of Hurd's colleagues to attend. Family members have also established the Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Fund. Money donated will be used to promote educational programming at the John L. Dart Branch Library and the St. Andrews Regional Library, both of which are branches where Hurd once worked.