​Charleston: The terrible questions awaiting answers

Correspondent Martha Teichner looks at the questions raised by the shocking massacre of nine people in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., the motivations of the white gunman, and where America stands on race relations today
Correspondent Martha Teichner looks at the qu... 07:44

Charleston, South Carolina's Emanuel AME Church has re-opened for its Sunday service this morning, while the investigation goes on into the shooting there that left nine people dead. And once again, there are all those sad and terrible questions. Here's Martha Teichner:

Dylann Roof stood expressionless during his bond hearing Friday, forced to listen to unseen family members of the Charleston dead.

"I will never talk to her ever again," said one. "I will never be able to hold her again."


The daughter of Ethel Lance spoke: "You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but God forgives you, I forgive you."

Their forgiveness, stunning. Their pain, heartbreaking.

"Every fiber of my body hurts, and I'll never be the same," said a parent of Tywanza Sanders, at 26 the youngest of the nine victims. "Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero."

He died shielding his aunt, Susie Jackson, 87, the oldest. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and a South Carolina State Senator, was also killed.

How, in 2015, could nine people attending a Bible study group be gunned down inside this historic black church in Charleston?

Soon, the strange and awful story began to unfold of the young white man who sat for an hour with his victims before he shot them, reportedly uttering racial slurs and saying, "I had to do it."

OK, another mass shooting ... another lone wolf gunman ... another Aurora ... another Newtown.

Or was this something different?

An ugly echo of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four little girls were killed.

"These churches were both targeted because they were used by black people," said Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

"You say this young man is 21. I mean, 21? My God. He was born, you know, after the Huxtables. How do you get this about black people at 21 years old, except that somebody purposely teaches you this, and that this spirit and this mentality is still alive and is still out here in the atmosphere?"

Yesterday a website surfaced showing photographs of Dylann Roof posing with a gun and burning the American flag. It includes a white supremacist manifesto. The writer says, "I was not raised in a racist home or environment," but spews hatred for blacks, Hispanics and Jews, and says, "I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state."

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church -- Mother Emanuel -- might as well have had a bull's-eye painted on it.

Pastor Clementa Pinckney's words in 2013 sound prophetic now:

"Could we not argue that America is about freedom whether we live it out or not? Freedom to be fully what God intends us to be ... sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that."

In 1822, Denmark Vesey, one of the founders of Mother Emanuel, organized a failed slave revolt. He and 34 co-conspirators were hanged. Angry whites burned the church down.

Symbols of black power, black churches have often been targets. More than 300 were bombed in the 1960s.

But weren't we supposed to be past all that?

In Chicago on the night Barack Obama was elected president, there was a sea of jubilant people, black and white. "I think a lot of people thought that was a turning point, that we had reached a post-racial America," said Teichner.

"I think that those people were fooling themselves," said Jamil Smith, a senior editor at the New Republic. "The people in that crowd, celebrating, understood what a pivotal moment that this was, that Barack Obama -- as a symbol -- offered a lot of hope. But that said, it certainly didn't make racism go away."

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in May during the unrest in Baltimore following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, 61 percent of Americans -- the highest percentage since 1992 -- believe race relations in the United States are bad, up from just 38 percent in February.

So does the race factor make the Mother Emanuel killings different from Adam Lanza's massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut? Should this latest incident instead be seen alongside the police shootings of black men, including Walter Scott in North Charleston, a few miles away, in April?