Located on Mother Emanuel AME church grounds, the memorial features a courtyard with two fellowship benches, facing each other with high backs that arc up and around like sheltering wings. At the center of the courtyard, the benches encircle a marble fountain where the names of the Emanuel Nine are carved around the fountain’s edge. Water emanates from a cross-shaped source, filling the basin and gently spilling over the names of the nine. The opening between the benches toward the back of the courtyard reveals a cross above a simple altar, providing visitors a quiet place to linger in thought and prayer.
The memorial includes a survivors’ garden, which is accessed by a pathway from the courtyard. Dedicated to life and resiliency, the garden is surrounded by six stone benches and five trees, symbolizing the five survivors – the sixth signifying that the church is also a survivor.
The memorial design reflects the powerful and inspiring way in which the Emanuel Nine family members relied on the bedrock of their faith to reverse the spread of hate with a message of unyielding love and forgiveness. “Because of this, people are still coming together. We will forever feel motivated to live our lives as our loved ones would want us to live,” said Walter Jackson, Jr., son of Susie Jackson.
Michael Arad began the design process by reframing the church grounds to create a sacred space for a memorial and a garden space to honor the survivors. A Memorial courtyard was designed in honor of the spirit and fellowship of the Emanuel 9. The Emanuel Nine Memorial will be a place for the congregation and the community. It encourages people of all backgrounds and walks of life to come together to realize positive change, while also creating a space to reflect in quiet contemplation.
This coming together is encouraged through the creation of two fellowship benches facing each other. An opening between the two benches widens towards the entrance, welcoming strangers to enter and join in community. The high backs of the benches arc up and around, like sheltering wings. They provide a sense of enclosure, and like a pair of arms, cradling visitors inside this space.
At the center of the Memorial, the curve of the stone benches encircle a marble fountain. The names of the Emanuel Nine are carved around the fountain’s edge. Water emanates from a cross-shaped source, filling the basin and gently spilling over the names of the Emanuel Nine.
The opening between the fellowship benches toward the back of the Memorial Courtyard reveals a cross above a simple altar, offering visitors a quiet place to linger in thought and prayer.
From there, a pathway leads to a new Survivors’ Garden dedicated to life and resiliency. A newly landscaped churchyard will enhance the daily life of the Church and its members. A lawn surrounded by six stone benches and five trees is dedicated to the five survivors of the attack, and the congregation.
The Mother Emanuel AME Church is situated between the forthcoming International African American Museum to the east and the John C. Calhoun Monument at Marion Square to the west.
The Emanuel Nine Memorial design draws the grounds of the church into this larger context, inviting “a dialogue between visitor and place, its past and present,” architect Michael Arad explains.
Family members of the Emanuel Nine say they hope the Memorial will bring people together to resolve their differences, reverse hate, end gun violence and work toward justice with unyielding love and compassion.