NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — The Charleston International Airport tribute to the victims and survivors of the Mother Emanuel AME Church shootings opened today in the airport’s Central Hall.
The tribute space and art installation is a place for reflection and contemplation and is meant to show millions of visitors to Charleston the remarkable community response that followed the tragic events of June 17, 2015.
The Charleston County Aviation Authority Board conceived the idea of sharing the story of the Charleston response in the fall of 2015. The artistic display came to life over several months and will be seen by the millions of passengers flying in and out of Charleston each year.
“This will be a solemn space and serves to honor those whose lives were taken, those who survived and their families,” said Margaret Seidler, who spearheaded the project on the board’s behalf. “It also reminds our citizens and visitors about the Charleston response – the peace, community spirit and unity displayed in the aftermath of the June 17, 2015, tragedy.”
Board member Henry Fishburne said: “Our airport is the most used public building in our community. The Aviation Authority Board and staff believe this tribute is fitting because the attack on the church and its worshipers was also an attack on our whole community.”
The focal point of the 400-square foot space is two five-foot-high stained glass panes, depicting the downtown Charleston church and nine white doves. The stained glass was created by Charlestown Stained Glass.
Lowcountry artist Jonathan Green donated an oil on canvas of White Breeze. “This painting is unique symbolically as it has seven black birds flying in the backgroundand there are two shadow images of birds on the foreground reflected in the sheets for a total of nine bird images,” he said.
Also on display is photography entitled Bridge to Unity by Associated Press photographer David Goldman and Charleston photographer Dan Xeller’s images for Southern Living magazine entitled Praying Family, Unity Bridge Hands, Love, and AME Steeple.
In the center of the space encased under glass is a Bible open to the Book of Mark, Chapter 4, verses 13-20, which the Bible Study group was reading on the night of the shootings. Alongside it is the Bible belonging to Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor at Emanuel AME and one of the nine parishioners killed.
The tribute project was part of a collaborative effort directed by Mead & Hunt, which donated design, architectural and program management services. Board members on the committee working the project, in addition to Seidler and Fishburne, were Helen Hill and Spencer Pryor.
“Mead & Hunt was honored and humbled to offer our architecture and management services for this moving display” said Richard Lundeen, AIA, Mead & Hunt’s manager for the tribute project
Providing construction and other related services to the project were nearly two dozen local companies, including 17 small- and minority-business enterprises. All participating companies are Charlestown Stained Glass, Landrum Tables, Squarepoint Design, Gallery Chuma, AME South Carolina, McWaters, IPW Construction Group, LLC, Carolina Sound Communications, Command Communications, Jonathan Green Studios, Gullah Catering by Barbara, Lush Floral and Events, EventWorks, Berlin Restaurant Supply, Concorde LLC, Production Design Associates, Duncan-Parnell, Mr. Tint, Mood Media and High Output.
“We want to thank the many companies, staff and others who helped make this possible,” Board Chairman Billy Swails said. “Charleston International Airport is the gateway to the Lowcountry and this tribute will serve as an inspiration to those who pass through here for years to come.”