Survivors of Mother Emanuel AME shooting still face lingering question

Survivors of Mother Emanuel AME shooting still face lingering question

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Three women and two children survived the shooting at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.

The pastor's wife and her daughter were in an office during the Bible study.

But Felecia Sanders, her 11-year-old granddaughter and Polly Sheppard witnessed the nine killings firsthand because they were in the room when the gunfire began.

"I go through June 17th all day, all night. All day, all night. I think about what I could've done differently, what could we have said differently if anything," Sanders said.

"77 shots. It actually sounded like a transformer blew," Sanders said.

"But then she yelled and that's when I took cover," Sheppard said. "I kept praying under the table, the Lord kept me calm."

"After I heard the shots, I thought he would've shot and run out, I didn't know it would've kept on going," Sanders said.

The women were part of a group of worshipers who welcomed the accused shooter at the start of Bible study that night.

"We were so nice to him, we were so nice to him," Sanders said. But at the end of the hour, everything changed. "I don't know what I was expecting, I was just waiting on my turn."

Sanders watched her son, Tywanza, die while protecting her aunt, Susie Jackson.

"I never thought that in my wildest nightmare that I would lose my child, my friends, at Bible study," Sanders said. "That's the part I can't get past."

Two days later, the families confronted the suspect in bond court and surprised everyone with their message.

"Tywanza was my hero, but as we say in the Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you," Sanders said. "Forgiveness is a relief. Dylann Roof doesn't care if I forgive him or to, forgiveness is for me it's not for him. If Dylann Roof just would've take time to walk through the room and just hail everybody that would've never happened."

Roof, who was identified as the suspect and arrested the following morning, faces multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, weapons charges in state and federal court as well as federal hate crimes.

He has not yet gone to trial.

"I forgave him also," Sheppard said. "I believe God will forgive him too. I believe in repentance. I believe God will forgive him too."

But one year after the tragedy, the ladies still have one question.

"Why did you pick me, why did you leave me? I keep wondering," Sanders said. "We've been at death's door. We've been at death's door."

Sheppard and Sanders say since the shooting, certain noises scare them. They also go to therapy for help in healing.

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