CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City council approved a referendum Tuesday evening to plant 15 trees downtown to honor the victims of the Mother Emanuel shooting that happened June 17.
The trees will go on Calhoun Street, in front of the Gaillard Center and across the street from Mother Emanuel AME Church. The council meeting was also Mayor Joe Riley's last as mayor.
"Trees are memorials in and of themselves, for they live beyond us," said Mayor Riley, before the first reading passed unanimously.
Beside Mother Emanuel interim pastor Reverend Norvel Goff and Council member William Dudley Gregorie, who introduced the referendum, Mayor Riley spoke about the significance of the trees.
"The crimes did not shatter the rock on which Mother Emanuel was built," said Mayor Riley.
"What one man meant for evil, God meant for good," said Reverend Goff.
Council member Gregorie said there are several tributes to the victims in the shooting. He introduced this plan because it's a little different.
"We think that we also need to memorialize the survivors as well as the congregation," said council member Gregorie.
The Chinese Elms will be planted and spread out, right across from Mother Emanuel.
9 will honor those who were killed.
5 will honor the survivors.
The 15th tree will stand for the church congregation.
"It also gives each family member a place to sit under each tree," said council member Gregorie.
People walking by the area Tuesday evening said they look forward to seeing the trees bloom.
"Trees are a symbol of life and they represent giving," said Gerald Hudson. "I just think that's a wonderful symbolic representation."
"Years from now, someone sitting on one of those trees and can think back to this time and see what a difference it has made," said Levy Berry.
By planting them, the city hopes to send a message to the victims and their families.
"I love you," said Gregorie.
"We're standing with them," said Berry. "It's hard now. But, in time, things will be alright."
There will be a second reading for tree dedication resolution at the next council meeting, Jan. 12.
Jan. 11 is Mayor Joe Riley's last day in office.