IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Charleston Church Shooting: Tributes Paid to 'Kind-Hearted' Victims

Some of the nine victims of the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting were remembered as “positive” and “kind-hearted” Thursday.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

The nine victims of the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting were remembered Thursday as "kind-hearted" members of the community — six women and three men who shared a love of family and faith.

They had gathered Wednesday night — as they did each week — at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for a Bible study session. About an hour later, a 21-year-old gunman opened fire in a fit of rage, police said.

Charleston County coroner Rae Wooten identified all nine victims in a press conference Thursday.

"Immediately my heart started to sink because I knew this was going to mean a forever impact on many, many people," Wooten said about being called in for duty after the massacre Wednesday night.

The oldest victim was 87 years old, the youngest, 26. Four of them were reverends. Here's what we know about the slain parishioners, all of whom died of gunshot wounds — eight at the scene, and one in a hospital operating room later.

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Pinckney was a pastor at Emanuel AME and began preaching in the church in his teens. The 41-year-old married father of two also served in the South Carolina Senate and was at one time the youngest member of the state House when he was first elected at 23.

State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, 41.
State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, 41.Allen University

"Senator Pinckney was a brilliant young pastor and leader who always possessed an empowering and healing message," his alma mater, Allen University in Columbia, said in a statement.

Several witnesses remembered Pinckney for his dedication to helping others.

"He was a sweet person," said community member Lisa Doctor. "He was just a kind-hearted man."

Another community member at the scene, J. Denise Cromwell, said the pastor had died while “trying to bring together a people for peace.”

Tywanza Sanders

Sanders, 26, was also a graduate of Allen University. He earned a degree in business administration last year.

The university remembered him as "a quiet, well known student who was committed to his education. He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues."

Tywanza Sanders, 26.
Tywanza Sanders, 26.via Facebook

Nai Chaganty, a college friend of Sanders, said she first met him when she dropped her wallet on the street and chased her to return it.

After they became friends, Chaganty said Sanders was there for her when she had a car accident driving from Virginia to see her husband. He helped her "hold onto faith" as she questioned God about what happened, she told NBC News.

"He would give you the clothes off his back," Chaganty said as she teared up. "He is a great person."

Cynthia Hurd

Hurd, 54, was an employee of the Charleston County Public Library for three decades, most recently working as the manager at St. Andrews Regional Library.

Cynthia Hurd, 54.
Cynthia Hurd, 54.Charleston County Public Library

"It is unimaginable that she would walk into church and not return," Hurd's brother, former North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham, said in a statement. "But that's who she was — a woman of faith. This is a very difficult time for our family, and Cynthia will be sorely missed."

All of the county's 16 branches were closed Thursday in her honor, and Charleston County Council member Elliott Summey said the St. Andrews library would be renamed the Cynthia Hurd Regional Library.

"We think that's a fitting honor for her, for someone who spent 31 years in our community, and it's the very least we can do for someone who was a true public servant," he said.

The Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor

Rev. DePayne Middleton, 49.
Rev. DePayne Middleton, 49.via Facebook

Doctor, 49, was a church singer and former Charleston County community development block grant employee, retiring in 2005.

Doctor was a big part of the county's services for the poor, Summey said, helping to "fix roofs, and we help them with septic tanks and we do the human things that government's supposed to do."

"So in a very big way, she was doing very human, kindly things in our government for others," Summey said.

Image: Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting.   Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton middle row: Daniel Simmons,  Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance,
Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie JacksonVia Facebook and Getty Images

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Coleman-Singleton, 45, was a speech therapist and girls' track and field coach at Goose Creek High School in suburban Charleston.

Her son, Chris Singleton, is a sophomore at Charleston Southern University, the school said in a statement.

"Chris's mother was just that parent that as a coach you are proud to have as part of your program," head coach Stuart Lake said. "What she brought to our team is immeasurable."

Ethel Lance

Lance, 70, a sexton and lifelong member at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, found gratification by keeping the church tidy, according to her daughter, Esther. “If she saw a scuff on the floor she’d say, ‘Oh no, don’t y’all mess up my floor,’” Esther Lance told The Post and Courier.

Esther Lance said after the the family suffered previous tragedies, including the loss of Esther’s father and sister, her mother was consistently the “strong woman who just tried to keep her family together.”

Lance is survived by three other children “and a host of grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends,” according to her obituary.

Susie Jackson

Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church, sang in the choir. She was the cousin of Lance, who was also killed during the bible study, according to her obituary

The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.

Simmons Sr., 74, a member of the church's ministerial staff, died in the operating room at the hospital.

Myra Thompson

Thompson, 59, was married to the vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church.