Lela Heyward received a phone call at midnight last Wednesday from her hometown of Charleston, S.C. She couldn’t believe the news.
Although her nephew didn’t belong to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, he knew many people there and had just paid a visit the week before.
He called to say there had been a mass shooting at the historic black church and that he was devastated. The church’s pastor was among the dead.
Ms. Heyward, whose husband, the Rev. Nathaniel Heyward, is pastor at Clinton Memorial AME Zion Church in Greenport, said that although she grew up with segregation and left Charleston after high school in 1961, her hometown and its Baptist church have never left her heart.
“I went through the struggles — I had to go out the back door, drink from a separate water fountain and sit at the back of the bus,” she said Monday. “I never felt threatened in church. I always thought of it as a safe place. I’m really hurt and can’t believe it.”