In a short but moving appearance at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, two of the three survivors of the "Mother Emanuel" church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were killed during a Bible study last June, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president citing Scripture.
Sanders, her son Tywanza, 26, her 11-year-old granddaughter, Sheppard, and others were at the Emanuel AME Church Bible study on June 17 last year when then 21-year-old suspected shooter Dylann Roof, whom the group had welcomed to their meeting with open arms, suddenly opened fire as they prayed. At the end of the shooting, only Sanders, Sheppard and her granddaughter made it out alive. Her son Tywanza was shot multiple times including in the head. Her aunt was also killed.
Just a few months after the shooting Sanders would reveal how the shooter who was allegedly driven to kill by racial animus, "caught us with our eyes closed."
On Wednesday night however Sanders explained why she chose to forgive Roof instead of hating him and how Clinton quickly started working to address the "Charleston loophole," a flaw in the FBI's system that allowed Roof to legally purchase a firearm before his background check had been completed.
"Good evening, my son's last words were, 'we mean you no harm.' Tywanza, my hero. Two days later I forgave the shooter who murdered him. Hate destroys those who harbor it," Sanders told the DNC. "I refuse to let hate destroy me."
"I have asked, how was he able to purchase a gun he used to kill so many? After that fateful day, Hillary Clinton called on lawmakers to close the 'Charleston loophole.' Because of the loophole, even though the shooter had an arrest record, when it didn't surface, as three days passed, he could still buy that gun," Sanders said.
"No one should feel what I've seen. No one should feel how we feel, how we suffered," she continued before referencing 2 Chronicles 7:14.
"The Bible tells us that if we humble ourselves, pray and turn from our wicked ways, God will forgive us and heal our land. Let us heed God's word and, in turn, may God heal our nation."
Sheppard then spoke, declaring "amen" at Sanders' comments before explaining that she was supporting Clinton's presidential run because she represented love. Clinton's rival, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has been repeatedly accused of spreading racial divisions over the course of his campaign.
"To heal we must forgive. That's what I've learned this past year. The shooter in Charleston had hate in his heart, the shooter in Orlando had hate in his heart and the shooter in Dallas did too. So much hate, too much. But as Scripture says, love never fails, so I choose love. And in this election. I choose Hillary Clinton," said Sheppard.
"Hillary was in South Carolina the day before the shooting and in the days that followed," she continued. "She talked about the hatred in our nation, the racism, the injustice. She said that we can't hide from these truths. She called on us to name them and own them and then change them. Together we can fight for that change. Together we can heal. Together we can love."