[image-1] The 200th anniversary service at Mother Emanuel ended with more than the usual parade of Sunday best and children scrummaging past pews.
More than three years after a self-avowed white supremacist opened fire during a Wednesday night bible study just one floor below, killing nine, the packed nave of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church got a first look at design renderings for a memorial honoring the victims, their families, and the countless lives affected.
[content-4] Michael Arad, the 49-year-old New York-based architect who designed the National September 11 Memorial honoring victims of the World Trace Center terrorist attacks, unveiled plans for the two-part memorial honoring Charleston’s Emanuel Nine.
[image-2] “One of the first things I remember Rev. Manning saying when we began this process is that we must keep the church in the middle of this process,” Arad said during the presentation Sunday. “The church is at the heart of everything we’ve done here and I hope you see that.”
The estimated cost for the full memorial will be close to $15 million, and it could be as long as two years before it breaks ground, according to John Darby, the CEO of the Beach Company, who is leading the fund for the memorial.
Arad said that part of his goal of “elevating” the church led him to draw up plans to surround the church with three walls on the north, east, and west sides, which will connect the east and west parts of the memorial through a path to the north, behind the church.
The west side of the church (to the left from Calhoun Street) will feature a 40-foot wide and 120-feet long Memorial Court. It will be flanked by two nine-foot benches with a center fountain. To the east, a Survivor’s Garden will be “dedicated to memory, the past, to those who have perished,” Arad says.
[image-4] “When we saw the credentials of the gentleman, and then when we met in person, he was so passionate and so honorable,” said Maxine Smith, a member who handles public relations for the historic church, in a presentation video. “If he could create a design in New York City to honor the September 11 disaster, we thought we could trust him to design a memorial to the Emanuel Nine and the survivors.”
The memorial must still go through the typical city approval process.
Charleston City Councilmember William Dudley Gregorie, who served in the memorial committee, said that the two benches facing each other on Memorial Court evoke a number of images for him.
“It reminds me sometimes of a ship for enslaved people who are going to freedom, sometimes it reminds me of the wings of angels, sometimes it reminds me of the arms of God,” Gregorie said.
Others in attendance included Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, who talked about the importance of remembering tragedy following last month’s controversial slavery apology resolution, and police Chief Luther Reynolds.
[content-1] “We find that there are things about our history that maybe we need not just to remember, but to learn,” Tecklenburg said. “Things that were forgotten, things that were never told.”
Tucked into the corner at the north end of the design is a smaller, private praying space called the Contemplation Base.
This is Arad’s twelfth trip to Charleston for work on the memorial.
“In both cases, it’s not about the number,” Arad said of designing a memorial for nine victims as opposed to one for almost 3,000. “It was a range of opinions, a range of feelings, and it was about hearing them and trying to respond to them.”
The design was presented to the victims’ family members two weeks ago.