Design for $10 Million ‘Emanuel 9’ Memorial to Be Unveiled Today at Charleston AME Church’s 200th Anniversary Service

The proposed Emanuel AME Memorial would transform the grounds just east and west of the historic church, where people gathered for a Bible study one year after the church shootings. (File/Wade Spees/Staff)
The proposed Emanuel AME Memorial would transform the grounds just east and west of the historic church, where people gathered for a Bible study one year after the church shootings. (File/Wade Spees/Staff)

Only time will tell if a proposed memorial to the Emanuel AME Church massacre will become Charleston’s most memorable.

But its projected scope and estimated $10 million price tag already makes it among the most ambitious ever attempted here.

The memorial plan, to be unveiled at 11:30 a.m. Sunday just after Emanuel’s worship service, will mark the finale of the church’s current 200th anniversary celebration.

The design has been in the works for more than a year, a result of a quiet collaboration among survivors, families of the nine deceased church members, the congregation, other civic leaders and Michael Arad, a partner at Handel Architects in New York.

When Arad, one of the architects of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, was competing for the job, he wasn’t asked for any drawings. Instead, he was asked for essays on what forgiveness looks like and on his design approach.

“I think that was very wise,” he said. “For me to suggest what should be built here without any knowledge of who is involved and what their feelings are and what their hopes and aspirations are would be beyond presumptuous.”

Charleston City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, an Emanuel leader who served on the design committee, said the plan has been warmly received by the victims’ families and should be embraced by the larger community.

“It’s not going to be what people expect, I’ll just tell you that,” he said. “What I can tell you about it is I really think it’s going to evoke feelings, and it will take you on a journey from death to survival. It’s going to be very personal. I think people will interpret it personally. It’s abstract enough for people to do that.”

“What I get from it is a warm blessing embrace as I enter.”

If you go: The unveiling of the memorial design will take place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at 110 Calhoun St. after Emanuel’s church service. Michael Arad of Handel Architects in New York City, will describe the design.

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SOURCE: Robert Behre
The Post & Courier