Tribute to Emanuel AME Church shooting opens at Charleston International Airport

April 15, 2017 GMT

Two Bibles lay inside a glass case not far from the arrivals area at Charleston International Airport.

One holy book is open, its pages resting on the passage taught on the night a self-avowed white supremacist came to Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in June 2015 and gunned down nine black parishioners.

The other Bible stays closed. It belonged to the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor at the historic black church who was among the people killed in the racially motivated slayings.

The Bibles are part of the Mother Emanuel AME tribute and art exhibit that opened Saturday just inside the terminal of the state’s busiest airport. Unlike the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport, this 400-square-foot space is meant for visitors to pause and reflect on the tragedy and the Charleston community’s response.

“This will be a solemn place and serves to honor those whose lives were taken, those who survived and their families,” said Charleston County Aviation Authority member Margaret Seidler, who spearheaded the project.


Two 5-foot-high stained glass window panes, depicting the church and nine white doves, serve as the focal point of the tribute. A glass partition, where the stained glass hangs, separate the memorial from a small seating area where airport visitors and travelers can sit and view the display.

The tribute area also features photographs of the historic downtown church and an oil painting.

Last year, 3.7 million passengers flew in and out of the state’s busiest airport, according to Charleston County Aviation Authority.

That number, explained authority board member Henry Fishburne, is part of the reason why this tribute is needed.

“Our airport is the most used public building in our community,” Fisburne said. “The Aviation Authority Board and staff believe this tribute is fitting because the attack on the church and its worshipers was also an attack on our whole community.”

The airport unveiled its plans for the project in 2016. At the time, the board estimated it needed to raise $175,000 to complete it.