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.
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.
"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.”
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."
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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."
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.
"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.
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.