SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP hosted a candlelight vigil at The City Library Saturday to honor the victims who died in Wednesday night's shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Community leaders and local clergymen gathered at the library downtown, where they spoke about the victims and how to come together as a community to heal during this time of tragedy.
“The church was made to feel safe in. We shouldn’t have to fear our churches. We should feel safe in our church,” said Lucinda Sampson, a Salt Lake resident and member of the African American Episcopal Church.
Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof, the alleged gunman, was apprehended and charged with murder.
“It’s just heart-wrenching, it’s just heart breaking,” said Pastor Corey Hodges from New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Salt Lake City. “I think we all have a responsibility to speak out, and we all must fight the temptation of silent indifference and when we see injustice in our community and in our world and in our country, that we should speak out and, our voices should be louder. The voices of good-will people should be louder than those of ill-will.”
Jeneatta Williams, Director of the local chapter for the NAACP, says she hopes the incident prompts citizens to be more aware of people who seem troubled in their communities.
“I think it just needs to be some type of opportunity where people can say, 'Where we can report when someone is acting strange or when someone’s saying something that we think is a little bit odd,' then people need to know where they can call in to some type of report,” she said.
Hodges says it struck close to home for him because he was conducing bible study at his church the same night as the shooting.
“They’re praying, and doing good, trying to better themselves and to be gunned down simply because of the color of their skin... so it was kind of close to home,” Hodges said.
Salt Lake resident Lucinda Sampson says she hopes those affected by Wednesday’s tragedy will turn to each other in support and kindness.
“And if we can just throw down our arms, these weapons, and make this circle of love, this would be a better place,” she said.
Hodges says there is still a lot of praying to do as the families of the nine victims heal. The NAACP says they are hoping members of Salt Lake's community will unite and discuss ways to prevent more tragedies like this from happening in the future.