A church in Charleston, a nightclub in Orlando — they seem a world apart.
Yet, both have been shaken by tragic shootings. One year ago, nine members of Charleston’s Mother Emanuel perished. One week ago, 49 club-goers were gunned down at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
A crowd of 50 gathered at the historic First African Methodist Episcopal to remember the lives lost on the one-year anniversary of the massacre there.
“Lord, we speak not just for the families of the Emanuel 9, or the families of the Orlando 49, but those who are standing right here,” said Rev. E. Anne Henning Byfield. “(We pray) that they may have peace, peace in their rest and peace in their waking and that they would know that you are always there with them to bring them through tragedy.”
Other memorials took place across the state. In Columbia, a group gathered at the S.C. State House on Saturday to mourn victims of both Orlando and Charleston. Speakers there urged for gun control measures.
The Broadway nightclub in Charleston also held a candlelight vigil on Sunday to honor the lives lost in the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Dozens of supporters packed the road out front of the nightclub to show their respects.
After the vigil, many made it inside Broadway for a benefit drag event. Proceeds would be put toward a GoFundMe account in support of family members who lost loved ones in Orlando.
Both illustrate stories of persecution. Atlanta TV producer Christina Ginn covered both the Charleston and Orlando shootings. She posted on Facebook:
"Straight folks … I need you to understand that a mass shooting at a gay bar is like a mass shooting at a church. It is the one public place where gay folks feel safe. Safe to hold hands. Safe to kiss their wife. Safe to dance with their husband. What this terrorist did was walk into our church and slaughter the congregation."
Still, more parallels. Both tragedies prompted a fierce debate across the country about access to firearms. Each shooter should have been ineligible to buy a firearm. Roof, who purchased a .45-caliber handgun at a Charleston retail store, had been arrested several months earlier on a narcotics charge. Roof now faces the death penalty.
The Orlando gunman purchased a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and Glock handgun. The FBI had surveilled the gunman at one time, suspecting him of having been radicalized. He was still able to buy a firearm.
Florida and South Carolina gun deaths are higher than the U.S. national average, which is the highest of all industrial nations. In the aftermath of both mass shootings, gun business increased across the nation, according to various reports.
And, in spite of it all, the U.S. is still #1 in mass shootings.