Huntsville AME Church holds prayer vigil for Charleston victims

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Heartbreak and tragedy of an inconceivable act put them in the pews, but joy and praise for God's love brought the worshipers up out of them.

Dozens of community members of all walks of life attended a prayer vigil held at the St. John AME Church in downtown Huntsville Thursday night.

The impromptu service came in the wake of the shooting at a Charleston AME church that claimed nine lives. The victims and families were lifted in prayer.

Speakers at the service also noted that the event may resurrect thoughts of the city's own tragedy five years ago, when Amy Bishop Anderson shot and killed three people and injured three others during a staff meeting at UAH.

"They will be surprised how they will relive some of those same memories and bring it back up," said Delores Smith.

Smith is a licensed therapist and serves as the vice president for diversity at UAH. She addressed the congregation saying many may be reminded of the senseless violence on campus. They should stay aware of those thoughts and feelings.

"We come together to support each other and it helps for then, but what I wanted people to understand is there's stages of grief because in the months and weeks and years ahead that sense of loss and trauma is still going to be there," said Smith.

The service's solemn tone also had notes of celebration, though.

"We will come together! Black and white!" exclaimed Rev. Patrick Clayborn to the worshipers.

Smith also said she hopes Thursday's occasion of support and unity continues to carry on.

"I'm grateful that we have come together, but I just want to see us continue to move further and be more preventive," she said.

Want to help?

Charleston's mayor has set up a fund accessible at all Wells Fargo locations where supporters can safely donate to the families of the victims. You can make a check out to:

Mother Emanuel Hope Fund

C/O City of Charleston

P.O. Box 304 Charleston, SC 29402.