The day she was killed along with eight others during Bible study at a South Carolina church, Myra Thompson achieved her goal of becoming a minister
Hundreds honored Thompson, 59, in a service Monday at the site of the deadly shooting, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
“This is a woman who I want to strive to be,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said of Thompson. “She wanted every person she came in touch with to make them better.”
Haley broke down as she repeated a message from other victims’ funerals in recent days, apologizing for attacks that “happened on my watch.”
Thompson’s daughter, Denise Quarles, said the former public school teacher and middle school guidance counselor loved to tell stories.
“A quick phone call was never a quick phone call,” she said.
Friends and family said Thompson was a studious hard worker who led the historic African-American church’s property committee and served on its board of trustees. A program for the service said Thompson began working to become an ordained AME minister in 2014 and received her license to preach June 17, the day of the shooting.
Thompson’s widower, the Rev. Anthony Thompson, told the white male suspect in the shooting, Dylann Storm Roof, at a court appearance last week that the family forgives him.
“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent,” Anthony Thompson said by video stream. “Do that, and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”
All nine of the victims in the shooting were black, and police contend the attack was racially motivated.
Thompson’s funeral followed services for four other victims at Emanuel AME this weekend that brought political and religious leaders from across the country.
Those who spoke at the services echoed the similar theme that the lives lost would bring about positive social change.
Haley and the Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the funerals Saturday and Sunday.
During the Saturday funeral for Tywanza Sanders, 26, and his aunt, Susie Jackson, 87, Haley promised “we will make this right.” The governor did not say what actions she planned to take.
Haley has already joined a host of politicians in Southern states who have spoken out in favor of removing symbols of the Confederacy from flags, monuments and license plates after Roof was shown in photos posing with a Confederate battle flag and burning the U.S. flag.
Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. said at Saturday’s service for Cynthia Hurd, 54, that the tragedy “shook an America that didn’t want to believe this kind of hatred could still exist.”
Hours before the funeral for DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, began Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at the church’s morning service to speak and worship.
Biden gave his condolences to the families of the victims and received a standing ovation after reading a selection of scripture.
The vice president’s son, Beau, died late last month of brain cancer. Beau Biden narrowly avoided death as a young boy in a 1972 car crash that killed Joe Biden’s first wife and his daughter.
“The reason I came was to draw strength from all of you,” Biden said. “I wish I could say something that would ease the pain.”
The funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel AME’s pastor and a state senator, was held Friday at a basketball arena in Charleston with President Barack Obama delivering a eulogy.
The president spoke about the need to address issues like poverty, gun control and job discrimination before surprising many when he began singing “Amazing Grace.”