Even in a country where mass shootings have become a fact of life, it was nearly impossible for most Americans to make sense of a gunman walking into Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdering 11 worshipers in cold blood. But for the congregants at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, where a lone gunman murdered nine people in 2015, the synagogue shooting wasn’t inconceivable. It was a bad memory repeating itself.
When Eric Manning, pastor of the historic South Carolina church, heard about the synagogue shooting, he prepared himself for what he knew would happen next.
“I began to pray and wait. The waiting aspect was because — you begin to lose count — but this was the third, I want to say, shooting that took place in a church,” Manning said. “And what traditionally happens is within two to three hours my phone begins to ring.”
Manning says he gets calls from reporters and concerned congregants looking to him for answers that he doesn’t always have. When Manning took over the ministry of Mother Emanuel AME, it was only six months after the attack on one of the oldest black churches in America.
“I had to understand where the family, where the community, where the church members were, and where we still are,” Manning told VICE News. “Trauma has a way of never leaving you. It sticks with you.”
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