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Sen. Pinckney mourned by hundreds at hometown church

  • A viewing was held for Sen. Pinckney Thursday at St. John AME Church in Ridgeland, Pinckney's hometown church. Genelle B. Williams/Jasper County Sun Times

Hundreds of people gathered at St. John AME Church in Ridgeland Thursday afternoon to pay their respects and say goodbye to Rev. Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

The viewing at Pinckney’s hometown church was filled with a community still in mourning, but the constant sights of hugs and exchanging of memories kept the day about the positive impact Pinckney made in Jasper County.

Visitors signed memory books before entering the front doors of the church.

Groups of five or six were permitted to go in at a time, walking to where Pinckney lay in an ebony casket. He was surrounded by dozens of flowers.

Friends said the world will not be the same without him.

“He had a way of making everyone feel like they were the most special person in the world to him,” said Melissa Kalinawsky, a retired employee of the Jasper County School District. “Everyone who knew him could tell you how special he was.”

She said the way in which he died still makes her angry, but she is working on forgiving the suspected killer for murdering Pinckney and the eight other victims from the fatal shooting of Emanuel AME church in Charleston last Wednesday night.

She said Pinckney, who served as pastor of Emanuel AME, would have most likely forgiven suspected killer Dylann Roof.

“Maybe God took anger out of (Pinckney) because of all that he needed to do,” Kalinawsky said. “Anger will slow and slow you down, anger is the other side of fear and I think that’s what he didn’t have. He didn’t have fear or anger.”

Others reminisced on the good things Pinckney did in the community and his hopes for the county’s future.

“He was always looking out for the less fortunate and education was a big thing on his heart, and health care and senior citizens,” Beaufort County Councilman William McBride said. “I think he would have liked to see those things continue to move forward. If anything, hopefully in a strange way, his death might move some of these programs forward in the county and the state.”

McBride said those changes are beginning to bee seen with Gov. Nikki Haley calling for the Confederate flag to be taken down from the state capitol’s grounds.

Jasper resident Khishawn Greene said Pinckney would have wanted the community to embrace each other during this tragic time. She said she’s finding comfort in that reality.

“How we all came together since last Wednesday up until now and to support the Emanuel Nine, he would want us to just stay unified the way we are today,” Greene said. “And that’s what we’re doing.”

The funeral for Sen. Pinckney is Friday in Charleston at the TD Arena. A tribute program begins at 11 a.m. and the funeral is set to begin around 1:45 p.m. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy.

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