Thousands mourn Sen. Pinckney in Columbia
Subheadline: Lessons taken from church shooting
COLUMBIA - Wesley Williams wanted his 13-year-old son, Joshua, to pay respects to the slain senator from Jasper County, Clementa Pinckney, but also for the teenager to learn about his own power.
"That was important to me, to show him how our ancestors had fought so hard for our freedom, for our rights," said Williams, who is black. "I wanted him to see that when you get out in this world, you should be a leader," like Pinckney, he added.
Williams was one of thousands of mourners to drift through the South Carolina State House Wednesday where Pinckney, 41, lay in state in an open casket. House and Senate lawmakers greeted visitors as they filed past the casket.
Williams also said he hoped the day would impress upon Joshua the importance of voting.
"When you vote, you're voting for your sons and your daughters," he added.
Last week, white gunman 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly shot Pinckney and eight others inside the historic black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder. The outpouring from the public and the state's elected officials has been immense.
Lawmakers are gathering momentum to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, a flag that Roof, a presumed white supremacist, posed with in photographs. At the South Carolina State House Wednesday, law enforcement had to cut off the line winding around the building shortly after 5 p.m.
At that hour people were still being given bottles of water, while the temperature hovered close to 100 degrees. Another mourner was Eddie Woods, who had met Pinckney more than 20 years ago in seminary school at Allen University in Columbia.
He recalled how Pinckney was "the baby" of the class, being only 18, when most other students were nearly twice his age.
"He always wanted to help," and knew what he wanted to accomplish in life, said Woods. "But he was real humble. He would sit there, and he would just listen. He wanted to work with people. He knew his purpose. That's why I admired him so much, because you saw a young fellow, No. 1, in seminary, and you saw the potential in him."
Accompanying Woods out of the State House was Monica Roe, who met Woods during a rally to take down the Confederate battle flag before the two ran into one another again on Wednesday.
"It's easy to sit at home and talk about, 'we need change,' but to actually come out and show up and support change, that's, I think, how it happens," said Roe. "We need to get out from behind our keyboards ... to where we can make a positive change. It's all of our responsibilities to not just pay lip service, but to come together."