I had the honor of working with many of my colleagues at the AP on this tragic story, and I didn’t deserve this byline. Those other reporters — Allen Breed, Jeffrey Collins, Meg Kinnard, Philip Lucas and Mitch Weiss, were on the ground in South Carolina.
I was in Florida, helping. Making calls. Talking to victims’ families over the phone. Still not easy. I won’t soon forget that the sister of victim DePayne Middleton-Doctor told me that they talked every day, and they started each call with laughter. They often forgot about what they really called each other for, because they were making each other crack up so hard.
It’s those little moments of peoples’ lives that we, as journalists, try to put into context. Here is the story we wrote, trying to capture the senselessness of the day, and the humanity of those who died.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor was a deeply spiritual woman who led the weekly classes at Mother Emanuel. At 49, the mother of four was juggling a new job as a college enrollment counselor along with caring for four daughters. But Doctor always made time for her faith.
Doctor had begun attending Emanuel in January — and on this night Bible study was postponed for a church business meeting that saw Doctor licensed to minister there. She stood before 50 or so people as the presiding elder signed her Bible, hymnal and a church handbook.
Most left after the meeting. Before church member Willi Glee left, one of the part-time ministers approached.
“I need to give you a hug,” Sharonda Coleman-Singleton said.
Not long after Glee left, the wooden door at the back of the church opened, and in walked Dylann Storm Roof.